By Rylee Seavers | Broadcast Reporter
All the best books I have ever read are ones I have chosen, not ones that I was told to read for a class. This isn’t to say that books assigned in class are always bad, but I think too many students judge reading as a whole by the books we have to read for class.
Reading is a wonderful thing that can teach you so much about the world, other cultures and people who lived thousands of years ago or who live thousands of miles away. But it seems like the books we are obligated to read make us think those we could choose are just as boring. But, that’s because we haven’t taken the time to explore literature and find the things we really want to read about.
When I was in high school, I, like many other students, had to read “Lord of the Flies,” “Fahrenheit 451” and Dante’s “Inferno,” among others. I don’t know a single high school student that would ever go to the library or bookstore on their own and pick up one of those books to read by choice. But judging reading based on the books we have to read in school really is judging all books by only one cover.
My grandma and grandpa used to encourage my cousins and me to read during the summers. They understood how important reading was for learning. They are the reason I became an avid reader, because if it hadn’t been for their encouragement, I never would have taken the time to find the books that truly drew me in and transported me to other places. Books make me forget where I am and what’s around me in a way TV cannot because, as I read, I am imagining the world of the character.
Author George R.R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
A 2016 Pew Research study found that 26 percent of Americans had not read a book in the last year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider the U.S. population of about 327,195,000, that’s around 85 million Americans who did not read a single book for at least 12 months. That’s a sad reality for our country. By not reading, you miss out on the chance to explore new ideas, use your imagination and, like Martin said, be a part of the lives of the characters on the page.
Reading isn’t just character building, it also has some very tangible benefits for your brain. One study found that reading improved brain connectivity, and reading fiction books helped people learn to empathize with other people because when we read, we are putting ourselves in the situation of the characters. This proves that you don’t have to read “boring” books to benefit from reading, though fiction may not teach us as much as nonfiction.
So, next time you are looking for a show or a movie to watch, pick up a book instead. There are so many genres and so many books to choose from. Besides, the books are always better than the movies.