Reading for leisure expands the mind

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Long forgotten are the days of Accelerated Reader reading and library-book charts, it’s now up to students to maintain leisure reading in their lives.

There isn’t someone constantly looking over the shoulder of every college student to make sure he or she is reading. For many students, it’s hard enough to get their required coursework done without throwing a “just for fun” book into the mix.

The brain is a muscle, a mass of tissue housing all of who an individual is and what that individual is capable of. Our thoughts and emotions are a series of neural networks and neurochemicals, which can be easily thrown off balance. Without continued use, some neural networks shut down, and the energy once used to maintain action potential is now allocated to another function.

Much like physical skills and strengths, the brain has a “use it or lose it” mentality.

One of my biggest fears about growing older is developing illnesses such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. In recent research, there has been a correlation between leisure reading, puzzles and chess and a decreased risk to have either of these deficits as time passes. It has also been found that leisure reading can reduce stress.

Besides the ability to help with physical and mental health, leisure reading can expand an individual’s view of the world and different cultures. Kelly Peterson-Fairchild, dean of library and learning services, said reading outside of the required materials is a great way for students to understand different perspectives and help students decide the right career paths for themselves.

“Anyone can learn from a book,” Fairchild said. “Even with fiction, people can see different parts of the world and experience different cultures.”

Reading also opens connections between faculty and students by allowing faculty and students to see each other as people, Fairchild said.

“It’s easier to learn when you connect with your professor,” Fairchild said. “Books are an outlet for people and by sharing a common literary interest, it’s easier for students to see faculty as people and make those connections.”

By ignoring literary works outside of the high-priced textbooks required by professors, students are limiting themselves and voluntarily choosing ignorance over knowledge. Books can take students to alternate timelines, other countries and different worlds.

In the life of a students, it’s hard not to finish everything that needs to be done and not curl up in bed with Netflix playing loudly in the background. Students come to college; however, to learn the acquisition of knowledge is not a part-time job. I continue to read because it is the cheapest way to see the world through the eyes of another, it’s the most inexpensive therapy session one can ever have, and it’s the least expensive lesson one can ever receive in college.

There are plenty of resources on campus, around the community and on the internet for students and other individuals to rekindle or ignite their love for reading, but it just takes the willpower to begin.