When I was in second grade, my parents finally let me read the Harry Potter series, and I had never been more excited. It took me about eight months to read them all, and if I’m being honest, I can hardly remember the plots of any of the books.
About a few months ago, desperate for an activity and feeling unmotivated by what seemed like the never-ending second lockdown of 2020, I started to read the series for the second time. I was only planning to finish the first book, and here I am two months later about to begin the fifth.
It’s almost like reading these books for the first time again, because at age eight, my vocabulary was limited and most of what I was reading was incomprehensible. But what I’ve really learned is how much I, surprisingly, enjoy reading. There is a big difference between being forced to read Macbeth in school than reading books of my choice on my own time.
Most people my age would not say they are not avid readers. In fact, most of them would say they have not read for fun in years. It seems that once we reach our teen years, the motivation to read for fun steadily declines and young people start to dislike reading. But reading is enjoyable when you find books that inspire you, and it can actually be good for you.
During COVID-19, the list of things to do is limited, especially since we’ve been doing the same activities for over a year. I can get tired of going to the same boba shop, the same park to hang out with my friends and ordering takeout from the same restaurant. However, the number of books is endless. With so many genres to choose from, it’s basically impossible to get tired of reading.
Reading books also gives me a break from social media and technology. With school being online just like TV shows and movies, I never get a break from the screen. We all need a step away from screens, including social media.
It’s been scientifically proven that reading is good for you, too.
According to the Council of Adult Education, reading can reduce stress and promote wellness. The article said reading for at least six minutes at a time can reduce stress levels by up to 68%, can decrease your heart rate and pulls your mind away from anxious thoughts.
Librarian Sima Thomas has loved books since she was a child, when her father would read to her before she was able to read on her own. She said she loves reading because a story can take you places where you could never go on your own.
“When I was younger I felt that (the) ability to go to other places and other countries and other worlds was so much fun,” Thomas said. “That to me, is the best part of reading. As a librarian, I see my number one job is to help anybody who doesn’t feel like they have found that joy yet to find a book that will give them that joy.”
Thomas also said reading something you actually enjoy can be different from reading something for a required class.
“It’s still good for you to read books like comic books or manga or anything else,” Thomas said. “It’s still reading and accessing those parts of your brain that are very transportive but also help develop your speaking and your writing as well.”
Thomas also knows that reading has a big impact on your health, specifically mentally.
“There are actually studies that show that reading reduces anxiety and makes you feel calmer,” Thomas said. “By disconnecting and holding paper and print in your hands it slows your brain down in a way that constantly looking at different screens and scrolling and taking in little bits of information does not.”
Thomas said that when your brain is forced to slow down and take in a whole page, it changes the way your brain is wired.
Thomas also said reading can make you a better writer, since taking in text in book form shapes how you form text when writing. “For teenagers or anyone who hasn’t always been a reader or feel like they have done a lot of reading so it’s hard, I can help you find the book that’s fun and desert-like to make it feel like its enjoyable,” Thomas said. “The more you take those little steps the easier it becomes and the more fun it becomes.”