By Susan Katherine Corkran, Columnist
Assigned reading is often viewed as an optional exercise. After a long range of pages crammed with small print appears ominously on Blackboard, questions like, “did you do the reading?” or, “are we going to be tested on this?” abound in the classroom before the professor walks in to see who completed the task. It seems so easy to skim the summaries and get by in class discussions without having to discipline yourself over the grueling hours of reading. You can fake your way through, but in the end, your professor won’t be the one hurt by your decision to shirk the assignment. The consequences of deciding not to be a reader go beyond creating extra stress in the long run with the looming risk of poor grades, though no one should overlook those possibilities. The real damage is that in choosing not to grow as a reader, you stunt your growth both as a student and as a person.
Our generation has access to an incredible wealth of information and technology. We are able to forge connections and friendships all around the world. Limits are consistently shattered as opportunities for learning new things increase exponentially. Reading may seem old-school in comparison, but how can we continue this momentum and innovation without sharpening our minds with the power of language, higher levels of thought, and reading?
Reading a variety of books is never something you will regret. If you make the time, you can find books about anything you are interested in—and you will discover new interests as well. Picking up nonfiction books about history, philosophy and theory may seem like an intense thing to do outside of class. Adding to the list of books you have finished will enrich your base of knowledge. It can help you write papers, complete projects, and contribute to class discussions. You can strengthen the areas of your academic knowledge that are weakest and fan the flames of your stronger scholarly interests. Suddenly, making an annotated bibliography is a less daunting task. You can have a list of authors familiar to you on subjects you care about. Strong references in your papers and assignments can help you bolster your arguments and grow in confidence—confidence in yourself when you look at your GPA and confidence as a reader that will stay with you even after you have graduated.
You are by no means limited to this factual section of reading. Literature has a special value beyond English classrooms. True, it will help you pass your graduation requirements if you familiarize yourself with Shakespeare, Dickins and Thoreau. But there are lessons to be learned in those pages that you can enjoy outside of a set curriculum. Reading for the sake of reading, and genuinely enjoying, classical literature will offer you new worldviews, exciting stories, beautiful poetry and prose, as well as an improved vocabulary.
When was the last time you picked up an interesting novel to read simply for fun? Maybe you have a soft spot for certain vampire romances or thrilling fantasies laced with magic and adventure. Read those too. Read academic books, read pure fiction, read short novellas, and read long sagas. Read everything, as often as you can. Make the library a familiar place. Find yourself lost in the pages of a book instead of the depths of a Netflix-binge. The key to life is balance, and if books are a priority for you as you balance your schedule, then you will see them enriching your life. Think of reading as a vital component to developing your brain in the same way that exercise and good diet are critical to our physical health. You can indulge in other things, sure, but make sure that you have all of the vitamins you need too.
Have a daily dose of Vitamin B—Books!
Photo by Allie Thompson