We have to prioritize reading for pleasure

By Camille Cox | Staff Writer

We all loved reading at some point in our life. Whether that be the “Magic Tree House” series, “Harry Potter,” “Junie B. Jones” or “Cat in the Hat,” reading played — and continues to play — a part in every student’s life. That being said, when did reading change from being a leisure activity to being an academic necessity?

I love reading, and I always have. My mom is a high school English teacher, and she has read to me every night since I can remember. In quarantine, I read every day — well, in between watching “Tiger King” and making whipped coffee. Entering my first year of college last year, I had the full intent of continuing to read whenever I could. But, just as many students experience, there is little free time during the week, and when I had it, I wanted to sleep or hang out with friends. Reading, the escapism I used to love and look forward to, took a backseat in my life.

After a long week of textbook reading, the last thing I want to do is read more on the weekends. I want to unwind, sleep and watch TV. Academic reading has sucked away my joy for reading at times. Instead of catching up on Oprah Winfrey’s favorite books, I read for class. While reading for class is necessary and I am beyond grateful for an education, it’s taxing at times. I understand and appreciate each piece of information I learn from my classes, but I want to get back my love for reading. I want to prioritize reading in my life once again.

If you’re a student like me who used to love reading and now does not feel they have any time to do so, we have to rethink. We have to make the time, just like we do for rest, friends and homework. According to Merrimack College, reading for college students improves concentration, self esteem, memory skills and vocabulary. With all that being said, why do students still not read for pleasure? For one, time. Time is valuable, and it feels awkward and useless to sit and read a novel instead of studying or even hanging out with roommates. But these statistics prove how important it is. Reading not only makes you smarter but also helps you in so many areas of life.

To get back into reading, start small. Pick up a familiar author or even a book you’ve already read, and just start. If you love “Harry Potter,” read your favorite one. If you want to challenge yourself, go look at former President Barack Obama’s top books of 2020 and pick one off of that list. Just start somewhere. As the next generation, we need to take advantage of our resources and opportunities. The Literacy Project found that 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate, 50% of adults cannot read above an eighth-grade level and three out of four people on welfare cannot read. We are the ones who have been given the privilege and gift of education. We must use it to its maximum to help lower those numbers.