Why Do You Read, Not What Do You Read

Maggie Connolly ’21

Opinions Editor

After a summer of relaxation, a lot of college students (or at least professors probably hope this is the case) read, or even reread, some of their favorite books. Although I did read my fair share of novels this summer, I also found myself reading about reading. I learned about things like the importance of what people read, when they read it, and how they read it.

One of the more interesting pieces I came across was an article in The New Yorker discussing whether or not the level of what students are reading is important, or if simply reading is enough. This was something I thought about a lot as I selected what I was going to be reading over the summer. Some of my favorite books are those that I have read and reread since I was 12. So, what does this mean? Are these books no longer beneficial and relevant because I still watched The Disney Channel while I was reading them?

My mom once told me, “A good story is a good story.” Personally, I agree with her sentiment. Although there is value in being conscious of what you read, training the mind to read and enjoy doing so is so much more advantageous than simply reading something because it will make you more well-rounded and supposedly intelligent. Challenging oneself in all aspects of life is undoubtedly important; it is also important to allow enjoyment in the small, simple things.

So many children start to love reading from a young age. Library days in elementary school are a rare form of gold and the book fair is a coveted event by almost all third-graders. Despite this, many children lose their love for reading because their reading is taken over by academics. Once teenagers shut their textbooks for the night, it is more likely that they will tune into something else besides another book, even if that book is for pleasure.

There is no argument that academic reading is not beneficial. It stimulates the mind, improves conversational skills and increases vocabulary. However, discrediting other kinds of reading below one’s academic level pushes kids and teenagers away from their initial passion for the simple pleasure that comes along with a good book.

Reading books for pleasure, regardless of their level and acclaim, builds individuality. Picking the kinds of books that suit one’s own personal taste allow people to build a certain kind of identity to their bookshelves. Allowing children and teens to find themselves within books, even if those books are not necessarily up to the standards of every New York Times critic in the business, gives them a sense of belonging and comfort in those books. This sense of comfort found in reading is easy to lose when kids are pushed away from the books they read for sheer enjoyment.

Growing up as a child who found a quiet contentment in her favorite books, I could never imagine a childhood without my favorite books or having my mom read to me every night before bed. The books from that part of my life have a special place in my heart and bring me that same quiet contentment today. Although I do find value in reading the classics and books that challenge my mind, there is a happiness so specific in reading my favorite book over and over again.

So, read everything — read newspapers, read corny romance novels, and read “Lord of the Flies” if you so desire. Just by all means, make sure you enjoy what you read. Read for yourself above all others.


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