Turning a page on excuses: The case for pleasure-reading

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Photo taken by Anoja Parameswaran

With fall term finally underway, for most students, the time for pleasure-reading has ended.

Classes having thus resumed their regular pace, the average Warrior will soon be up to their eyes in tests, assignments, and extracurricular activities.

So, with deadlines and due dates looming, why should students make time to read beyond the textbooks?

What is the case for pleasure-reading?

For starters, recent studies (including one by the University of Michigan in 2016) have suggested that time spent reading may actually lead to an increased life span.

The 12-year study, which observed more than 20,000 retirees, found that those who read for as few as 30 minutes per day lived an average of 2 years longer than their poorly-read counterparts.

More than a mere hobby, reading is believed to improve not only length of life but, perhaps more importantly, quality thereof.

One study published to the journal of the National Academy of Sciences in the early 2000’s noted that more time spent reading generally correlated with a decreased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, a form of degenerative dementia which, as of 2016, plagued more than 550,000 Canadians.

“The brain is an organ just like every other…”, stated lead author Dr. Robert P. Friedland at the time of the publication.

“Just as physical activity strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones, intellectual activity strengthens the brain against disease.”

Further research has drawn the conclusion that the greatest benefits are to be reaped through enjoyment of books specifically.

Fictive or otherwise, research has shown that full length and highly-immersive pieces of literature tend to be the most cognitively beneficial genre of reading.

Researchers believe this to be caused by the deep state of mental focus required when reading a book, the act of which more fully and effectively engages the brain than skimming a magazine, per se.

In achieving thorough cognitive activity and creating new neurological connections as such, reading thus assists in the strengthening of the brain, and so helps to safe-guard it against disease.

Despite this plethora of benefits however, it seems that many are yet unwilling to find time to pick up a page-turner.

Is it the fact that, living in an age of alternatives, there are now too many options which win over reading?

Could it be that social media and Netflix are today’s preferred pastimes?

For the multitudes, it might be so. And for the busy student, if there aren’t more entertaining manners of passing time, surely there exists a more productive pursuit?

A point which the skeptical student should note here is that increased time reading builds not only upon mental longevity, but might also lend to a more impressive resume.

Credited for the expansion of vocabulary and an increased clarity of communication, reading has been identified as the root of heightened powers of critical thinking and creativity.

It’s true. Reading could make you more employable.

While it would be incredibly idyllic to summarize here that reading for pleasure is the so-called “silver bullet” to student success, such a conclusion would also be unfortunately utopian.

True, it is possible to read and yet remain woefully lost for words. Sadly, the simple act of reading will not automatically write your resume. And unfortunately, a book a day will not necessarily keep the doctor away.

In short, pleasure-reading is no quick-fix.

However, reading truly is (and will continue to be) a worthwhile pastime with proven cognitive benefits.

Perhaps your next great read is lying neglected on your bedside table, unexpected in the hands of a friend, or unexplored on a shelf at the library.

While it may never hold the same place in your heart as the latest Netflix series or be as terribly addictive as the endless scroll of social media, there is the amazing possibility that it will be worth time and attention from even the busiest of schedules.

One thing is for sure – unless it finds its way to the top of your to-do list, there is no knowing what your next read has in store.

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