Reading helps develop the intellectual tools needed for higher learning, living a more full lifestyle

Jennifer Abplanalp, Opinions Editor

It’s been shown that as little as 20 to 30 minutes of independent reading per day can improve understanding and vocabulary.

“I can’t think of a more essential skill in the 21st century than reading,” said Matthew Coan, a librarian at Truax. “It’s a lifelong skill. It doesn’t matter what career you go into, it’s going to be important.”

Books and reading offer the intellectual tools that are the roots of higher learning and living a more full and enriched life. Studies have shown that reading greatly improves the likelihood of someone going to the theatre or a museum, more likely to do volunteer or charity work.

Reading makes you more than simply a passive consumer of electronic media and entertainment. It creates an intellectually active brain by forming images and ideas through sustained focus. In contrast, watching television is being merely passive and allows those images and tone to be created and given to you.

It is important to recognize that reading is like most any other activity, practice makes perfect. The more you read, the more your comprehension of a text will improve. The cognitive capabilities of a reader are improved with the greater the volume of reading that the individual accomplishes.

Think of it as training for a 5k footrace when previously, your position on physical activity was to make the 15-foot trek from the couch to the refrigerator. You start your training program running 30 seconds followed by your certainty that you collapse on the trail is a forgone conclusion. Give it two weeks, however, and you’re running a full minute. At three weeks you’re running two and eventually you’re running for a full 30 minutes.

While increasing frequency and volume of reading is universally believed to improve reading ability, subject matter is often more open to debate. There is some concern that internet reading, particularly reading that is frequently interrupted by hyperlinks embedded in the text can cause enough distractions to inhibit full understanding of the text.

“Reading teachers have figured out a long time ago that it doesn’t matter what students are reading whether it’s a comic book or a novel that they’re going to get something out it,” said Coan. Reading anything then, even the back of the cereal box, is better than nothing.

Evidence of readers benefiting, for example, increasing one’s vocabulary from any kind of reading, can be found in studies that measure the frequency of particular words in oral and written media.

For example, while oral speech, television would be an example of this, provides for the average word frequency between 400 and 600, which is considerably low when taken into consideration that the average adult book’s average word frequency landed at over 1000 and newspapers clock in at over 1600.

The challenge, for everyone is that the resolution is made to not only strive to read more, but to encourage others to read more as well.