David Chen / The Daily Gamecock

Opinion: Reading isn't a competition

Reading is one of America’s favorite pastimes and is fundamental to education. But reading as a college student seems more and more like a chore than a fun hobby or educational experience. 

The amount of academic reading students go through in a semester’s worth of classes is astounding. But outside of the academic reading to be done, there’s limited time to spend reading purely for pleasure. 

When it comes to reading for pleasure, there seems to be a lot of pressure to read intellectual books or the classics of literature. These books are important and have their own time and place, but looking at the books other students are reading makes me hesitant to pull my own book out. 

I enjoy fiction, and not the high-brow literature you’d read in an English class. I love reading "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien and I will admit it. But it feels like I can’t admit that I’d rather re-read "The Hobbit" for the 10,000th time than Charles Dickens, Chaucer or Plato. 

Reading shouldn’t feel like a competition, so I’m not sure why it does. If the only literature worth reading at the college level is intellectual literature, then I think students will have less incentive to use their spare time to read than they do now.

I fell victim to this pressure as well and spent my time reading "The Art of War" and the Quran over the summer to try and impress people when I started school. I didn’t have much time to read, but that wasn’t what I wanted to be reading; I just felt as though that’s what I should have been reading. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people “ages 15 to 44 read for an average of 10 minutes or less per day”, which is a pretty insignificant amount of time in comparison to an entire day. If students, who fall into this age range, only read for ten minutes a day on average, shouldn’t we be promoting reading of any kind, not just the classics? 

Reading has been shown to reduce stress significantly in research done by the University of Sussex compared to listening to music and playing video games. Reading lowers the heart rate and causes the muscles to relax, a study done in 2009 found.

Any reading being done, regardless of the form or genre it takes, should be encouraged and not judged. In a time where so much of our day is devoted to work and school, we should remember to read something for fun every once in a while, not just stuff we think will impress other people.

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