Everyone knows that reading makes you smarter, so it would seem to be a waste to devote an entire post (even a short one) to that proposition. But sometimes science comes up with something pretty cool and so we have to risk diverging into the annals of the obvious to make a point.
According to NPR, research just published in the journal Neuron indicates that reading more literally builds up your brain. We're not talking about a metaphorical you're smarter so your brain is stronger, we're talking about actual observable differences in the brains of people who read more. Specifically, reading seems to build up white matter, which (as near as I can tell) are like the highways that connect the different parts of your brain. By making all of those connections stronger, you're allowing your brain to process and synthesize greater amounts of information and build stronger connections.
How cool is this?
The more reading you do, the stronger those white matter connections become. They even took a group of poor readers and put them in an intensive remedial program where they found that white matter built up at the same rates as reading level - those who improved the most in reading also added the most white matter. In addition to all that content that they brought into their brains (which is, of course, another benefit of reading), they also literally made themselves smarter in a general and objective sense.
I don't have any policy recommendation or anything as a result of this other than that we should encourage everyone to read (a novel idea, I know). I just think this stuff is really interesting. And I'm going to go do some reading now.