In early 2021, the Pew Research Center carried out a survey to analyze the reading habits of American adults. In this study, 23% of American adults claimed they hadn’t read a single book in the past year in any form, regardless of whether it was a physical, audio or electronic copy. And that’s just counting those who admitted to not reading a single book.
This trend is something that needs to change for the future of the country. A lack of reading can potentially result in poor language and interpersonal skills and cause unhealthy habits and addictions. Reading can elicit many more benefits than just literacy. We at Scroll believe that recreational reading is beneficial and can be healthy in many different ways.
Don’t let digital distractions hold you back
One of the biggest excuses college students make is that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done. From a busy course load to a social life to a job, college students have a lot on their plates. Adding recreational reading to an already jam-packed schedule may seem impossible.
However, according to a study done by Baylor University, college students spend, on average, eight to ten hours on their phones per day.
Eliminating even a half- hour of screen time to read instead stimulates the brain and challenges one’s imagination. Reading also forces the brain to focus instead of just mindlessly scrolling on social media.
Hunter Bartley, a junior studying English, aims to have equal amounts of time split between his social media use and his reading time. He loves to read things that interest him, so that way, he is passionate about the content.
He also likes to read because he is able to connect deeply with the characters.
“Social media is a waterfall of information,” Bartley said. “Social media gives you a surface level of people’s lives. Books give you a deep look into people’s lives and you can gain something out of it.”
Movies will never do the book justice
One argument that many people may make is that they don’t need to read since so many books are receiving movie adaptations. Over the past decade, a variety of books such as “Dune”, “Doctor Sleep” and “Nightmare Alley”, just to name a few, have gone from the pages to the silver screen. While most of these book-to-movie adaptations have earned various accolades, they take out very pivotal aspects from the books themselves.
“I wish that people would be more accurate to books because the story is already so beautiful, and I want the watchers to understand that as much as readers already do,” said Skylar Clemons, a sophomore studying business management who reads nine hours a day. “It kind of frustrates me when they make things up when they already have a book to go by exactly what needs to occur in the story.”
Visually, movies can be much more appealing than books but that can also be a bad thing. The great thing about reading a book is that one has to imagine what the characters look like, what they talk like and what their personalities are like. They have to imagine the setting of the story and really paint a mental picture as to what’s going on. When watching a movie, none of that applies. The picture is painted for the viewer and takes away all that potential imagination. When it comes to reading the book or seeing the movie, read the book first.
Reading increases empathy
When we open a book, we can be transported to a world of wizards, dragons, spaceships and time travel. Over the last decade, many psychologists discovered a surprising connection between reading fiction and the development of social skills such as empathy.
For example, a 2014 study at Washington and Lee university discovered those who read a descriptive excerpt from the 2009 novel “Saffron Dreams” where the female Muslim protagonist was called racial and ethnic slurs showed less negative bias toward people of different races or ethnicities. It neutralized their bias toward those different from them, which has a strong repercussion since racial tensions have increased from the diversifying of our country.
Empathy improves interpersonal relationships, both personally and professionally. In her article titled “Why the World Needs an Empathy Revolution,” Jill Suttie said, “The ability to connect empathically with others — to feel with them, to care about their well-being, and to act with compassion — is critical to our lives, helping us to get along, work more effectively and thrive as a society.”
Making time to read in your daily routine may seem like a sacrifice; however, the outcomes are beneficial to mental health.
Margaret Atwood, the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, once said, “I read for pleasure and that is the moment when I learn the most.”
We at Scroll invite BYU-Idaho students to read something they are passionate about rather than just what is assigned to them in classes. Professors and faculty should encourage their students to read recreationally as well.
“I think reading just helps to provide relaxation and the recreational benefits because you’re not focused on assignments and you can focus on the story,” said Charise Chua, a sophomore studying communication and employee at the David O. McKay Library. “That’s one of the biggest things, really. Just having a rest for your mind.”
The McKay Library offers hundreds of books that students can check out with a scan of their I-Card, and they can typically have the book checked out for three weeks. For more information on what the library has to offer, check out their website.