In Defense of Free Reading

Lucy Knudsen '19, Columnist

With our hectic schedules, students of today are often consumed by school, sports, and extracurriculars. I can say for myself that my room is full of interesting books that I’d love to read, but haven’t gotten around to. As the weeks and months pass, I always replay the same excuse: “I just don’t have time to read anymore.”

And I’m not alone. In fact, on average, Americans spend two hours a day watching television and seven minutes reading. In a recent poll of the school, over 48% of students haven’t finished a book on their own time in over six months, and for many it has been years. For 54% of the students who do not read outside of class assignments, the reason is they do not have time.

The truth is, we all probably have more time than we think. It just depends on how we chose to spend it. If you’re like me, and you want to read for fun, but you feel that you do not have time, there is probably a simple solution. Most of us (including myself) are guilty of scrolling through Instagram, watching videos, or shopping online. In other words, we’re all guilty of wasting time that we could spend elsewhere. Multitasking is a pretty underappreciated solution to the non-reading problem. Audiobooks are a great option for busy students. If you’re like me, and your sit-down-and-read time is in short supply, then try listening to an audiobook as you do the dishes, shower, or walk the dog. For the thrifty and old-fashioned type, most classic books are in the public domain. It is legal to create a free audio recording of books published before 1923. Many of these books can be found under podcasts on your phone or on War and Peace has never been more accessible!

For the many people who responded to my survey question with “I don’t like to read”, I understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes it is more relaxing to simply watch a movie or a tv show than to start a book. However, there are many benefits to reading that are worth considering. Besides the obvious advantages, (such as an increase in vocabulary, helps in school, makes you a better writer) reading can benefit you in unexpected ways. In her interview for NPR, award-winning American author Seanan McGuire said: “Part of how we learn empathy, part of how we learn to be human, is by reading and listening and viewing stories, and seeing people that don’t look like us.” In other words, devoting time to consuming stories about different types of people gives us the tools to interact with different types of people in our day-to-day lives. Furthermore, there are several negative impacts of not reading. Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, noted: “As people read less, they read less well. And when they read less well, this has very serious consequences, not just to their academic performance, but to their economic performance and ultimately to their ability to connect with a civic life and political life.” Therefore, not reading can cause an alarming withdrawal from many aspects of life.

For me, the main benefit of reading is doing something for its own sake. Far too often we spend our time completing activities and doing work for the sole purpose of looking good on college applications or doing well in school. Although these endeavors are important, it is exhausting to constantly work for credit (at least for me). To me, reading is an escape from the expectations of others, but is less of a time-suck than Netflix. For those who wish to read more, cutting down on wasted time and multitasking are ways of making time, despite our busy schedules. For those who do not like to read, consider the positive impacts of reading and the negative impacts of not reading. Maybe this will convince you to head to a bookstore for fun!