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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Why reading makes you cool

Saichand Chowdary
A student reads a book in the quiet area on the sixth floor of Healey Library. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine told me they “don’t read” while discussing a movie adaptation of a book. Normally I wouldn’t dwell on this sentiment, but their tone of voice put a pit in my stomach. They declared that they don’t read with obvious arrogance, as if that somehow made them cooler or warranted a chuckle. It was a harmless comment, yet it saddened me to know they had this outlook.             

What my friend failed to realize is that they do read—every day. Whether we read emails, street signs, movie posters, instructions or our very own writing, reading is a necessary act in society. Even in professions surrounding STEM, employees still read from a plethora of sources: articles, proposals, peer-reviewed studies, technical manuals and more. But perhaps more importantly, many professions require staff to adequately write, even if it’s just to send a decent email. Now what any good writer will tell you, is that reading—and reading and reading—holds much of the success in becoming a good writer. 

The more one reads, the more they are able to recognize what good writing looks, sounds and flows like. Additionally, the more one reads, the more exposure they have to different tones of writing, and what scenarios those tones might be appropriate for. For instance, someone might portray their voice differently in an email to their boss than they would in an email to an employee working under them. 

This example may seem trivial, but the power to manipulate words and master rhetoric has swayed generations—as we’ve seen for better or worse—throughout history. While the average person doesn’t need to hypnotize mass audiences, they can still use rhetoric to persuade and impress in jobs and relationships. Convincing, quality writing aids in so many life opportunities, like applying for jobs, grants or scholarships, for instance. You may be just as talented as the next person, or more, but if you cannot accurately and attractively portray your skills in writing, someone else will get the job. It’s a skill not to be underestimated. 

This skill comes back to reading. In a study published under the American Educational Research Association in 2017, thousands of students—preschool to Grade 12—were exposed to increased reading. At the end of the study, a majority of students showed “meaningful improvements” in their writing. (1) However, the benefits from reading don’t end here. A 2020 study found that active reading slows down the decline in long-term cognitive function, (2) and, if you can believe it, a study published in 2017 found that reading books could potentially expand one’s lifespan. (3) In conclusion, reading is good for the brain.  

Furthermore, the more you read, the more exposed you are to other perspectives, ideas and walks of life. When a human forms their perception of the world and how they should function in it, they only have the experiences in their head to inform them. By engaging in recreational reading—and therefore exposing oneself to countless other experiences and outlooks—people can effectively build a richer and more well-rounded perception of life. This can build empathy, lower ignorance and expand one’s wealth of knowledge to pull from when thinking critically and making life decisions. In conclusion, reading is powerful. 

One thing I don’t want to discount, however, is the fact that reading can be mentally and physically challenging for people. I am not suggesting that every human read one advanced novel per month. Instead, I merely hope those with a negative outlook on reading can open their minds to it in whatever format works best for them. I understand that not everyone is going to have a passion for reading, but the idea that reading is lame is detrimental to its very important, widespread benefits. It’s like saying literacy is lame, or learning, and that’s a scary thought process. 

Furthermore, I am a big advocate for the belief that there is literature to fit anyone’s preference. Reading long classic novels is not the only option—there are short novels, collections of short stories, poetry books, comics, creative writing, articles, magazines, blogs and so much more. I also think people forget this: writing can be funny. Satire novels, satire news outlets—please look up The Onion—and humor writing in general are plentiful. 

Amazingly, this doesn’t even touch the extreme variety in genre when it comes to reading. There seems to be a connotation with reading and boredom in the minds of many, but when done right, reading is anything but. That’s why it’s so important to find literature that interests you. For instance, I’m an avid reader, but I’m not claiming to have my head in Jane Austen and Shakespeare every week. I’m currently reading a fiction series surrounding vampires and gargoyles, and I cannot put it down. Am I being blown away by its literary genius? No. But I’m exercising my brain, and I’m having fun. That’s what reading can—and should—be: fun.

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0034654317746927 
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics/article/reading-activity-prevents-longterm-decline-in-cognitive-function-in-older-people-evidence-from-a-14year-longitudinal-study/3AE2A49067C17A4140EEBB49F394AACC
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6245064/
About the Contributor
Skylar Bowman, Managing Editor