The benefits of casual reading

By Caleb Church

Staff Writer

Have you noticed that, with most classes now being held virtually, you have been spending more time indoors looking at a screen? Nowadays, people have been farther apart than ever before. Social gatherings must be limited and masks are required in all public spaces. This has greatly reduced our social interactions with one another. By turning to our screens we have tried to fill that void.

Have you been more tired or stressed lately? When was the last time you read a book merely to read a book? Reading can improve mental health, knowledge, and even help you sleep more. “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a state similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm,” according to the South African College of Applied Psychology “Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”

My generation has lost interest in reading for pleasure. Distractions like social media, Youtube, and The Office keep us entertained without needing to ever pick up a book. But what benefits come from scrolling down Instagram for the hundredth time in a day? Trying to decide whether to rewatch Outer Banks or Schitt’s Creek on Netflix? But what if, rather than mindlessly looking at another screen, you could pick up a book and lose yourself in it for an hour? 

With classes being hosted on Zoom, our smartphones always at our sides, and video game consoles one button press away from hours of fun, we are constantly looking at screens and, as a result, increasing our stress. We have been led to believe that reading should not be fun. Our high schools made us read books that we weren’t interested in. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a beautiful book but our high school teachers tore it apart and made us analyze it. And then they made us talk and write about the books we weren’t interested in. And then they graded us on our essays and quizzes on the books we were not interested in. Reading classic literature is important and it can even be fun, but high schools usually go about assigned reading incorrectly. But this piece isn’t about remodeling the high school learning system. It’s about reading for pleasure and good health.

Trust me, you can find a novel, biography, non-fiction, mystery, thriller, or horror book that will pique your interest. Pick up a short story or novel and see where that takes you. Start reading and hopefully, you get so lost in the book that when you look at the time it’s been two hours since you started and you are already halfway done with it. Discovering that special book can lead to finding a favorite author or genre and then you will be on your way to reading for pleasure. If you find yourself struggling with Zoom class or spending unproductive time on your phone or laptop, reading is exactly what you need. Maybe you can’t fall asleep till 1 AM and it’s affecting your school work. Try picking up a book and reading before bed. I promise after reading a couple of pages, you will find yourself dozing off earlier than usual. In the morning you will wake up with more energy which will help you stay more productive throughout the day. 

Illustration by Jocelyn Long

So pick up a book and get lost in it for a while.