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The long neglected importance of reading

Reading has always been a crucial part of our education; ever since we were young, we were always encouraged by our teachers to read extensively during our free time.  The emphasis on reading is rightly justified; reading is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to new knowledge and gain insight on new ideas.

Despite this, the number of high school students who read books outside of school is decreasing at an alarming rate. According to a survey conducted by TIME magazine, in 1984 less than 10 percent of teens said that they “never” or “hardly ever” read for pleasure. However, in 2014, 45 percent of teens admitted to reading by choice only once or twice a year.

There are obvious reasons as to why students are reading less. In recent years, not only is superb academic success a requirement for students, but also outstanding performances in extracurriculars and other school clubs or activities. This pressure, when combined with the tremendous amount of homework high school students receive, often leaves little time for students to engage in other activities. “There simply isn’t any time for free reading,” explained freshman Katie Zhang of Richard Montgomery High School.

However, students should still find the time to read, as there are many extremely important benefits to pleasure reading. According to researchers at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, reading for just six minutes can help reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent. The study found that participants who read after having their stress levels elevated became more relaxed than participants who tried other stress relievers, like walking or listening to music.

In addition to helping students relax, reading for pleasure can also benefit students academically. Ozburn conducted a study in 1995 in which they utilized a sustained silent reading program in a ninth-grade reading class of sixty. During this one-year program, students gained an average of 3.9 year levels on their reading achievement test scores.

Not only does reading improve students’ performance in the classroom, it also boosts brain function and increases overall intelligence. According to a study at Emory University, reading has been found to enhance connectivity in the brain, which in turn improves brain function. “Reading improves writing skills and expands vocabulary,” agreed freshman Ashley Ye of Richard Montgomery High School.

According to a study from the Regency Agency, reading for pleasure can also increase empathy, better relationships with others, and reduce symptoms of depression. As explained by The New Yorker, bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology showed that, when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as if they were going through that experience themselves. For example, reading optimistic and happy books would improve a person’s mental state.

Clearly, making time to read in high school is difficult but there are many ways in which a student can find the time; even 20 minutes of leisure reading everyday can have a significantly positive impact on the student. Audiobooks are a great way for students to read without having to sacrifice any additional time. Whether students are on the long bus ride to or from school, exercising or even eating lunch, they can listen to audiobooks using free apps such as Overdrive which can be easily downloaded onto a smartphone.

Teachers can also encourage students to read more by using class time to discuss any books that students read over the weekend. This way, it can allow students to perceive reading as a social activity. The teachers can also reduce the amount of workload for students before break so that students can have time to read for pleasure over break as they have a lot of spare time.

Overall, the benefits that reading can yield are too great to be outweighed. Even if students were to spend only half an hour before bed just reading on their own, it could lead to improvements in academic success, mental health, and overall lifestyle.

Article by MoCo Student staff writer Valerie Wang of Richard Montgomery High School


About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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