The Lost Art of Reading

We live in a society that puts the pressure on individuals to constantly stay busy; if you aren’t doing something every second of the day, you must not be working hard enough. The effects of this ideology is trickling down from adults in the midst of their careers and beginning to impact the younger generation. The practice of equating business with success is especially true for college students. Sitting in the library or seeing people flying through the dining hall with to-go boxes creates a stressful atmosphere that is easy to get swept into. Because of this busy + stress = success mentality, I’ve noticed people are losing touch with one of the most important parts of learning—reading.

Now, this might be the English major in me, but reading should be an essential part of our daily lives. My parents implemented a routine of nightly bedtime stories when I was a young child, and getting my first library card felt like I was in possession of a key that could open the world. Some of my earliest memories are walking through the local library where we lived in Cleveland, Ohio and just staring in awe at the rows of bookshelves that seemed to go on forever. Authors were, and still are, my idols, and the library is a home to them all.

When you think about it, a library isn’t just a big building full of books. It’s an ecosystem that’s full of knowledge and stories from people you’ve never met, that live halfway around the world, or died two hundred years ago. A library is a plethora of endless amounts of information, and the best part—it’s all free.

So, with all this easy access to books and the vast amount of knowledge that comes with them, why have we stopped reading? One of my favorite questions to ask people I’ve just met is, “what is the last book you’ve read or what book are you currently reading?” I am always shocked when someone responds with, “well, I don’t really have time to read” or “I don’t remember the last time I read a book.” How can that be possible? Has reading really become a lost art?

People tend to justify their lackluster responses by adding on and saying something along the lines of “I’m just so busy, I don’t really have time to read.” Personally, I don’t buy that. There are twenty-four hours in a day, and you really can’t find thirty minutes to pick up a book? It’s not that you don’t have the time, because you do. It’s simply not a priority to you. Okay, yes. You’re busy. But rather than spending your free time or your study break binge-watching shows on Netflix, go to the library and find a good book. Need a recommendation? Let me know, I’ve got a list of my favorite books. But please, don’t tell me that you’re too busy to read.

Another thing that bothers me is when someone complains about having to read for classes. I’m not talking about reading forty pages of your bio textbook before class the next day, I’m talking about classes like English 185. It’s a requirement, yes, but even if you have no interest in being there, you have to take it, so why not enjoy it? If you’re in a Religion, Sociology, English, or other class that requires you to read more abstract texts, use it as an opportunity to enjoy reading. You have to do it, so rather than complaining and skimming the pages just so you can pass the quiz, sit down with a hot cup of coffee and use it as a time to destress.

There are lot of benefits to reading, and the idea that society is deciding it’s not as important as other things is concerning. In the digital age, the art of communicating is becoming shockingly difficult for many people. While it’s great to be so connected by technology, it’s vastly decreasing the amount of face to face conversations. This results in a reduced ability employ effective communication skills when it really matters, such as in job interviews. Reading is a way to keep this part of your mind sharp; analyzing stories with dialogue or biographies that teach you how to create elegant sentence structure subconsciously activates the part of the brain that works when communicating with others. I’m not saying reading a book will result in you getting the next job you apply for, but studies have shown that the more you read, the better a communicator you become, and better communicators are the ones that get hired.

I recognize there are some people that don’t see reading as an escape like I do. I’m not asking you to conform to my beliefs and run to the library as soon as you finish reading this to check out as many books as you can carry. I’m simply asking you to reflect on your reading habits (or lack thereof), and if you can’t remember the last time you read a book, maybe you should go check something out from the library. And if the last book you read was for a class, ask yourself, did you really sit down and take the time to analyze and enjoy it, or did you just skim through the pages so you could get through it? I’m also not telling you to stop watching Netflix or whatever form of destressing you use. Even I enjoy a movie or an episode of The Office every once in a while. I’m just urging you to shut the laptop down every once in a while and replace it with a good book. In the society that always keeps us busy, I promise you, there is always time for a good book. You just have to make it a priority.

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