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Back to Reading

Dragons, magic, hobbits, lands located far away, the boy who lived, and the hunger games were some of the worlds brought to us through books as children. Yet, it seems like as we get older and media content grows, children's love of books begins to fade with other content on the internet deemed a more enjoyable pastime. A study published by the National Literacy Trust in the run-up to World Book Day on Thursday found that fewer children enjoy reading and that this dwindled with age: nearly twice as many five to eight-year-olds as 14 to 16-year-olds said they took pleasure from reading. Overall, just 53% of children said they enjoyed reading "very much" or "quite a lot" – the lowest level since 2013. Between Netflix, podcasts, social media, binge-worthy shows and school, where are you finding time to read? Not reading for school, but for pleasure, not a chore, but a hobby. We may say we don't have enough time to read; nevertheless, we can replace 5 minutes of scrolling through Instagram before you go to sleep to read.


Image is courtesy of @book_stormm via Instagram.


Why Should You Read?


If Reading for pleasure doesn't excite you, it could mean you haven't found the right books or genre yet. People have been addicted to reading novels, stories that appear on handheld screens and disappear 24 hours later. Social media, like exercise and drugs, can cause a release of dopamine. Social media is developed so when you receive a notification, whether that may be a like, follow, mention, or direct message, your brain is wired to release dopamine, making you happy. This release is a feedback loop that makes you want to continue to experience dopamine and continually use that social media platform. Books are lower dopamine activities, but they offer other benefits:


  1. Reading strengthens your brain.

a) Researchers have confirmed that Reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain using MRI scans. As you read more, those networks become more substantial and sophisticated.

b) Reading is like a workout for your brain; it keeps it in shape, according to research published in Neurology. Frequent brain exercise was able to lower mental decline by 32 percent.

  1. Expands your knowledge

a) Exposure to various new areas of knowledge depending on the genre (i.e., fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, etc.)

b) Developing a more extensive vocabulary through Reading can influence scores on standardized testing and job interviews. "A 2019 poll conducted by Cengage showed that 69 percent of employers are looking to hire people with "soft" skills, like the ability to communicate effectively."

  1. Help decrease chances of cognitive disease and improve mental health.

a) Reading is a stimulating activity, and those who participate in activities that engage their brain are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease

b) Relieving stress, in 2009, a group of researchers did a study on the effects of yoga, Reading, and humor on health science students' stress levels. They found that 30 minutes of Reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and psychological distress feelings just as effectively as yoga and humor did. Another study by Sussex University researchers showed that Reading might reduce stress by as much as 68 percent! Trouble sleeping? Reading an actual book helps you relax more than zoning out in front of a screen before bed as the light emitted from your screen can keep you up.


Reading vs. Social Media


Surveys show that 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media. 75% report having at least one active social media profile, and 51% report visiting a social media site daily. As of 2018, 3.1 billion people are social media users, with 94% considering themselves active social media users, with that number only growing from 2 years ago, especially in the pandemic where people desire social connections. Social media platforms develop algorithms that make you have a psychological want to use their media. As the Conversation's article on digital addiction has said, "technology is designed to utilize the basic human need to feel a sense of belonging and connection with others. So a fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO, is the heart of many features of social media design." Social media has become a distraction for teenagers, consuming media that may be false, lower self-esteem, or purely entertainment. As phones have become more common for high schoolers, they disturb their learning during and after school. There have been multiple studies proving a correlation between shortened attention span and the use of technology.


How to Stay Committed to a Book


Going back to Reading and adding it to your daily schedule is essentially building a habit. At first, you're not going to be able to read for 1 hour every day (unless you want to and have the time), but getting smaller, more attainable goals will motivate you to keep going. After you create a plan, create a system that has a specific time to associate with your project and the action you will follow through to implement that system. For example, "every night before I go to sleep at 10:30 pm, I will read 15 minutes of my book". Of course, it's not going to be always on time, and you'll miss some days of Reading but try to practice that system. If you want to read for more extended periods, try to add a minute of reading every week gradually. It's also okay if you binge read books when you have time; some books are page-turners that leave us wanting more.


Book Recommendations


These are just a few recommendations that might not be to your liking; try googling books in your preferred genre, or watching "booktubers" can help find new book recommendations.


Fantasy

  • Harry Potter Series - Harry Potter

  • Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo

  • Young Elites - Marie Lu

Dystopian

  • Hunger Games - Suzanna Collins

  • They Both Die at the End - Adam Silvera

  • The Maze Runner - James Dashner

Science Fiction

  • Scythe Series - Neal Shusterman

  • Uglies Series - Scott Westerfeld

  • Legend - Marie Lu

Mystery

  • Truly Devious - Maureen Johnson

  • The Inheritance Games - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

  • And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

Young Adult

  • The Hate You Give - Angie Thomas

  • The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Self-help

  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones - Book by James Clear

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey

From an external point of view, reading may not seem like the most enjoyable way to spend your free time. If you give books a chance, however, you're opening yourself up to an array of new worlds, perspectives, and real-life benefits.



Article Author: Kelley Liang

Article Editors: Stephanie Sahadeo, Edie Whittington

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