Newby: Making room for reading is rewarding

Though our schedules are cramped, it’s good to make time for reading because reading makes us better in a number of ways.

Taylor Newby, Opinion Columnist

Midterms are grinding by with half-failed attempts in offering students much solace. Grades are heavy, and schedules heavier. With a rapid, busy season approaching, it makes sense for students to hunker down and take the brunt of a crowded schedule with diligent planning — leaving little room for leisure.

But what proves to reap benefits for students and their schedules is when they allow themselves room in their day to read leisurely. Though the idea is almost unbearable at this point in the semester — as course loads leave reading feeling like it’s more of a job than a joy — studies show that the benefit of setting aside the stress of studying and picking up a novel is incredibly helpful in a wide array of areas.

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Reading in our free time allows us certain skills that might seem obvious — things such as building a broader vocabulary, honing a skill in solving problems, and gaining general knowledge. Along with that, the mental stimulation that occurs when we’re reading keeps our brains active and engaged for periods of time — and that active engagement is incredibly beneficial for our minds. In the act of reading, we relieve stress and develop better memory in having to recall information about the characters or people we are reading about. But what surpasses common belief is that through reading, we are made into better, more compassionate people when we put aside ourselves and pick up the story of someone else. Whether it be indulging in a novel or opening up a memoir, reading about the experiences of another person is a gateway to discovering the depth of compassion, the complexity of culture, and the wonders of adventure. Reading allows us a particular insight into humanity, and we benefit in our relationships because of it. Although it seems like it might be a stretch, we are better people when we read.

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And what may come as a surprise is that more college-age students are reading than you might expect. I asked 150 students anywhere between 18 to 22 years old if they read for fun, and 133 of them said yes while 17 responded no. That is 87 percent of those whom I asked. All of them are full-time students — many of whom are involved in groups, clubs, part-time jobs, or other extracurricular activities. Of that number, 101 of them seek their leisure reading in novels and memoirs and 32 of them take to online publications and articles.

With that, scrolling through stories doesn’t have to look a certain way. Especially when chaos erupts in the middle of the semester and course loads are overwhelming. But setting aside anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to read something — anything — can grow us in ways we couldn’t have otherwise imagined. And though the material of what we read is bound to differ in story, purpose, or context, the experience remains the same. It takes us outside ourselves and brings us into grounding perspective — it helps us grow and become better.