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Bailey: People aren’t reading enough — you should

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. 

The printing press is one of the uncontested champions of all inventions. It made the mass spread of information needed for our modern world possible. Now because of the internet, a lack of attention span and many other factors, there are people who don’t read books, and frankly I’m worried about them.

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According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of adults in America have not read a book in any capacity in the last year. In 2015, the amount of adults who had read a piece of literature (novels, short stories, poems or plays in print or online) in the past year was down to 43.1%, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Fewer adults are reading literature on their own time, and that is terrifying.

Reading builds critical skills throughout our lifetimes. The BBC says that it increases our emotional intelligence by having people share different perspectives with different characters. They also say it can keep us mentally active which can potentially stave off dementia.

Keith Oatley, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Toronto who was interviewed by the Washington Post, says, “People who read more fiction were better at empathy and understanding others.”

So, reading makes you a more empathetic person, and, quite frankly, wouldn’t you think more empathy is exactly what we need in our current world?

That’s just the social aspect, not to mention how important it is for humans to continue to learn. One of the best ways to get that continued education once you leave school is to keep reading and to keep reading all kinds of things.

College is an environment where students have to read books they are assigned. Once that environment is gone and no one is forcing someone to pick up a book, people usually stop.

This is strange to me because getting to choose all the books I’m going to read is by far more fun than reading the books I’m assigned.

So, reading makes you a more empathetic person, and, quite frankly, wouldn’t you think more empathy is exactly what we need in our current world?”

We could be the generation of people who turn this trend of lost literacy around. We could be the most empathetic and most knowledgeable group of people in the last couple hundred years. We just have to do our part and continue to read.

If you’re that person we all know who loudly and proudly likes to say how much they hate the act of reading, then please put on some audiobooks because that’s not a valid excuse to stop learning.

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If you’re lost on what to read, I get it. There are so many books, and it can feel overwhelming to have to choose one to start with. I would recommend “The Best American Nonrequired Reading” series, which is a yearly anthology of hidden gems from around the country. The content is hand selected by a group of high schoolers located in San Francisco and Ann Arbor, Michigan, edited by an amazing author every year.

It’s a great starting point into all different types of literature, and it can be the only book you read all year if it has to be, although I’m hoping you’ll read more.

Learning to love reading is one of the most important awakenings you can have, at least in my opinion. Stop by the library, a secondhand store or Barnes & Noble and find your next favorite book. 

Fynn Bailey can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @FynnBailey.

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