It�s January � and we�re still highlighting ways to do college better. It�s what we call �Life Not Laundry� and its all the things you can do with the 2.5 hours each week we save you with laundry service. So far, we�ve highlighted the holiday season and learning new skills. This month we�re talking about READING. Now, before you think this is about homework, let us explain that it�s absolutely worth your time (trust us).
�Some books leave us free and some books make us free.� -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why Reading is Important
Written by Kristin Pond, Assistant Professor of English, Baylor University
Reader Beware! What you are about to read may be highly dangerous to your virtue.
Or at least this is what many nineteenth-century people believed (if you believe their magazines and newspapers). Reading was on the rise in the nineteenth century, much because, like you, they had less laundry to do! With a rise in leisure time, people turned to reading novels. And this is what really got everyone worried. Pick up some poetry or a scientific treatise or a self-improvement pamphlet and you were fine. But whatever you may choose to do with your free-time, do not read a novel!
We may see these proscriptions as silly today, but that fear was actually founded on a very important fact about reading: reading influences our emotions, and emotions tend to influence how we act. In other words, what the eighteenth-century moral guards were worried about is actually one of the strongest arguments for why you should read a novel.
We don�t know if you have noticed, but it�s very difficult to imagine someone else�s point of view. We often assume that how we are feeling is the same way everyone feels (if we are sad we want even the weather to be gloomy). Sooner or later, the more you meet people and experience different cultures, you begin to realize that there are many different ways to live in this world. And that is the single most important thing that novels do. Novel�s help you exercise your sympathy muscles by encouraging you to see & experience the point of view of one of the characters.
This is also why novels are so fascinating � they offer us the kind of omniscience we wish we had but never will. We get to see inside the minds of people and watch how their actions are really motivated. One of the most famous writers from that period, George Eliot declared: �The only effect I ardently long to produce by my writings, is that those who read them should be better able to imagine and to feel the pains and the joys of those who differ from themselves.� Writers and readers alike in the nineteenth century believed that novels had the power to change people and thus to change the world.
Read It and Weep
Reading can literally change us. Which means Harry Potter is actually magic (joking, or are we?). Whether it�s a novel, short-story, non-fiction piece, or a magazine, reading pushes us to think and act in new and smarter ways. Here�s what others had to say on the subject:
Boosts your creativity and imagination
Reading exposes you to a world of imagination, showing you nothing is impossible in this world. By reading, you are exploring a different angle to see a thing you�ve known, on how different action leads to different results. Books are beyond imagination. (InspirationBoost)
Changes your brain structure
Scientists from Carnegie Mellon University assessed students on a 6-month daily reading program and found that the white matter in the language area of their brains had actually increased. White Matter allows your brain to internally communicate more effectively between regions and thus work at a higher capacity.(Expertrain,NCBI)
Attention span enhancer
The good news is that if you struggle to focus, reading can improve your attention span. Books have a beginning, middle and end, and this structure is beneficial for our brains. It encourages us to think in sequence - the more we read, the more our brains are able to link cause and effect. (Expertrain)
Keeps your brain sharp
In particular, people who exercised their minds later in life had a 32 percent lower rate of mental decline compared to their peers with average mental activity. (HuffingtonPost)
Each of these facts points us to an undeniable truth that READING IS IMPORTANT. We get it...Sometimes reading can feel like a drag. Often times we associate reading only as homework, a task, or a necessary evil. Maybe we all need to read different books? We are confident there�s a genre out there for everyone. In the right context, reading can be a way of life . Whether you read for enjoyment or just because you know it is good for you, reading can be a temporary escape from the regularity of daily life.
Support your local bookstore
So, we�ve talked reading up a bit. Our hope is that with your saved time, you feel the freedom to read more of what inspires you most. We love the idea that reading captivates people and puts them in someone else's� place for a time. Here are a few of our favorite spots to find books throughout the Country in our college towns. It�s probably cold out, so grab a book (from one of these spots), sit by a fire, and take a trip down the rabbit hole to get to the Emerald City. (wait, those aren�t the same books...are they?)
The Last Bookstore
Murder By The Book
Brattle Book Shop
South Congress Books
The Wild Detectives
Tattered Book Cover