Opinion: Read!


Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Johner RF

Photo courtesy of Time Magazine

In general, I feel that New Year’s Resolutions are kind of a scam. If you want to change your lifestyle, you shouldn’t feel like you have to wait for some day that’s been arbitrarily assigned as the first of the year. Worse, the nature of New Year’s Resolutions sets you up for failure: if you are supposed to start or stop a habit on one specific day as opposed to working yourself into the habit, you’re likely to mess up once or twice. And, then, might as well give up. Perhaps this is why 80 percent of resolutions fail by February, according to US News and World Report.

So, I guess it’s no surprise that the year I truly started reading for pleasure was the one out of the past three that it was not my resolution. Through elementary and middle school, I was a notably avid reader, but, since then, I didn’t read much other than news, books for school, and over vacations. In ninth and tenth grade, I told myself on January 1 that it would be the year I read more, but it never really happened. My excuse was a valid one: I’m busy! With homework, ballet, clubs, and social time, when my head finally hit the pillow, I really didn’t have it in me to keep my eyes open for even another fifteen minutes. I just don’t have the time, I told myself whenever I started to feel guilty about not picking up a book.

That’s a lie though: I absolutely had the time. I had the time when I finished an assignment in class and had five minutes until the bell rang. I had the time when I got home from school and would scroll through Instagram for ten minutes. I had the time while eating breakfast on Sunday mornings.

So this year, after getting Michelle Obama’s Becoming for Christmas, I started to make these changes, and it felt great. I could slip away from an upcoming test or a stressful headline and into a world where the people in power worked earnestly to make life better for Americans. When I finished with Becoming, I kept going with others, unintentionally accomplishing my resolutions from 2017 and 2018 in January of 2019. It’s somewhat of a cliche, but when you open a book, you really and truly become a part of a world that you wouldn’t otherwise experience. With that, you forget the stressors – of which there are many for lots of students – of everyday life.

To that end, reading can also be the perfect form of procrastination for those looming tests and assignments that are stressing you out! When you put off studying by looking through social media, a sense of impending doom sneaks its way between each tweet or Snapchat story. Reading, however, makes you feel accomplished, motivated, and smarter, even if you aren’t any closer to understanding how to calculate the rate of a chemical reaction.

Picking up a book doesn’t just emulate productivity, though. In addition to getting you in the mindset for productivity, reading can increase blood flow to underdeveloped parts of the brain and increase your intellectual flexibility, according to Arit John of The Atlantic. A study at the University of Sussex found that reading lowered stress levels by 68 percent — and it only took six minutes of silent reading to achieve that drop!

In 2018, the American Psychological Association estimated that a third of teenagers hadn’t read for pleasure in the past year. An even smaller percentage, I’m sure, read for pleasure regularly. It would be liberating, though, if we all took just six minutes each day to let ourselves become absorbed in a story that we know we won’t be tested on.