Emaan Bangash
Commentary

Teenagers stop reading for pleasure as they get older despite long-term social skills, stress relief bookworms gain from hobby

Reading is one of the most important skills to have and develop in life. However, people don’t seem to be reading for fun as much as they could be and this needs to be changed.

Along with the obvious benefits that come with reading for pleasure, such as increased intelligence and open-mindedness, it can also improve stress levels, curb anxiety and depression. 

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, around 25 percent of adults said they hadn’t read a whole book, whether electronic, audio or print within 12 months. With multiple assignments due and the amounts of pages to read for class, it’s hard to think about ever reading a book for fun. During high school, required reading becomes much more common, and therefore becomes a chore to many students, turning them away from reading books in their free time. This shouldn’t be the case because of how important reading becomes in adult life.

For UTD students, reading becomes especially important. Think about those journal articles, textbook pages and lab reports you read for your classes. Then, think about having to analyze them to be able to write 10-page essays and dissertations. While reading more books seems like the last thing on your mind, it can be a fun way to train yourself to read faster and comprehend difficult texts more efficiently.

One of the most often mentioned benefits of reading is its effect on the brain itself. In Anne E. Cunningham’s article, “What Reading Does for the Mind,” it cites that those who read frequently form enhanced vocabulary and verbal skills. Even if a person reads slowly or cannot easily read complex literature, the effort to read often at all contributes to increased intelligence. Additionally, avid readers develop advanced writing skills by observing other writing styles through their readings and applying those to their own works. It’s obvious that reading in one’s free time, no matter the genre, develops higher intelligence.

Reading books teaches life lessons and put readers in situations they may not ever get to experience. Most of the Harry Potter series stands in Amazon’s Top 20 best-selling kids and teen books of all time, among other books such as “The Fault in Our Stars” and “The Book Thief.” Although these vastly differ in genre, they teach readers life lessons and how to deal with difficult situations such as death, disease and depression. A research article published by the Public Library of Science titled “How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation,” suggests that when a reader feels sympathy for a book character, they turn to their own self-concept of who they want to be and take the perspective of others, which in turn develops empathy in real life. When reading about the death of a parent or a loved one, a person can either relate to their own experiences or those of a friend, and that is how empathy develops.

The same concept applies to how reading improves relationships and opens the mind to different cultures and backgrounds. The book “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio provides readers with a first-person perspective of a child with a facial deformity, and readers then learn how to treat people who look differently. While these situations may be uncomfortable to a reader, it forces them to consider outlooks different from their own and how to apply them to real life. Thus, reading improves empathy and social relationships by applying situations in books to reality.

Books also help with anxiety, stress relief and can be used as a form of therapy. In a study conducted at the University of Sussex, researchers increased test subject’s heart rates and stress levels through a variety of tests and exercises, and then were run through various traditional relaxation methods, and reading for six minutes reduced up to 68 percent of stress levels. Losing yourself in a book takes away stress because of the concentration required to read. Bibliotherapy, an increasingly common way to treat anxiety and depression, incorporates evaluation of one’s own problems and life through reading. The School of Life in London includes bibliotherapy as a treatment method, where patients are prescribed a list of books meant to inspire and comfort. Reading books in one’s free time can contribute to lower stress levels and an overall improved state of mind.

Despite the benefits to one’s mind, character and health, people still don’t read as much as they could. One of the most common excuses to not read is usually “I just don’t have time to read.” Making time to read is the same as making time to scroll through your Instagram feed or read Buzzfeed articles. Reading doesn’t have to be a chore, and you can even read for as little as 10 minutes a day. You can read when you’re eating breakfast, when you’re waiting for the bus, when you’re waiting for class to start or even when you’re standing in line for lunch. In those times, when we’re mindlessly scrolling through our Snapchat stories out of boredom, there are easy opportunities to be reading. In the end, if you’re stressed, tired, bored, overwhelmed, want to escape your responsibilities or all of the above, your solution is right there in the pages of a book.