As a kid, I loved reading. If I got sick and had to stay home from school, my mom would sit with me, and we’d read books all day. In middle school, I’d rush home, sit on my bed and read Harry Potter novels for hours. I had bins filled with books, and I read each one.
In high school, something changed. Most of my time was filled with extracurriculars and homework. By the time I had finished my daily responsibilities, I felt like watching TV and doing nothing else.
College is no better. After completing hundreds of pages of assigned reading for classes each week, the thought of opening a book and reading for fun often feels off-putting.
This past December, I was packing to go home for winter break and decided to throw a book in my bag. I almost always intend to read in airports and on flights, but this rarely happens (I typically succumb to the lure of Netflix). During this particular trip, my lengthy layover in Dallas got even longer after two delayed flights. Much to my dismay, wifi at Love Field is not free (the horror). I was left to occupy nearly four hours with the only non-digital form of entertainment I had packed.
So, I found a chair, got comfortable and read. And it was actually nice. I realized that I had missed reading things besides news articles, blogs and textbooks.
This semester, I decided I would spend one hour each week reading a book for fun. It’s not a lot of time, but it’s manageable with my busy schedule. It’s only been a few weeks, but so far I have truly enjoyed my allotted reading time.
I think we all would benefit from, and even enjoy, some leisurely reading. Here’s why:
1. Reading improves your vocabulary and writing ability. It’s no secret that reading can expose us to new words and unique storytelling methods. Reading news articles and textbooks is a great way to learn new things, but these media aren’t known for their rich word choice—they’re meant to be easy to read. On the other hand, novels are filled with uncommon words and intricate stories. Reading well-written books is a great way to become a better writer, which is important for public relations students and professionals.
2. A good book can relieve stress and ease depression. An article from the Baltimore Sun notes that reading a non-business book is a good way to disengage from everyday stressors. Good novels can transport us to another world, and this allows us to relax and forget about our worries for a short time. Happy, light-hearted books can even ease symptoms of depression.
3. Reading can help prevent Alzheimer’s. According to an ABC News story, people who engage in intellectually demanding activities, like reading, can lower their risk of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases. People who don’t exercise their brain risk losing crucial cognitive abilities.
4. Getting lost in a book can help you sleep better. A book can help you relax and relieve stress, which makes reading a good bedtime activity. Many of us find we have a hard time shutting off our minds when it’s time to go to sleep, but reading before bed can help the mind relax and prepare for rest.
5. Novels make you more compassionate. An article in The Washington Post discusses how reading can help us develop empathy. Novels allow readers to connect with fictional characters, which make us better at understanding human emotions. An ability to gauge others’ mental states can help us be better employees, leaders and people.
As Stephen King said, “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
In 2018, let’s fill life’s inevitable dead spots with books instead of Netflix.
By Alyssa Comins, VP of Web-Based Communication