Students should turn off the TV and pick up a good book

The rampant growth of Netflix and the systematic closing of local bookstores has left many “old-fashioned” individuals wondering if society is headed in the right direction — especially regarding the exchange of information and entertainment. The value of reading seems to be completely lost on a lot of people, especially in younger generations, and I am having a hard time seeing this as a good thing. Sure, Internet access, cable and even class lectures are entertaining ways of acquiring information and becoming more educated. But there are significant benefits to reading that just can’t be gained any other way.

The book-reading experience and environment are excellent for serious learning. However, what people seem to prefer nowadays is not to learn as much as possible as well as possible, but to be superficially satisfied through more casual means, like sitting in on a lecture or watching a documentary while studying. Now, there is nothing wrong with documentaries — they’re fun and interesting — and class lectures are vital for a comprehensive academic experience. But neither is a substitute for independent study and turning the tangible pages of a book.

Before there was television, one of the primary reasons to read was to be entertained. But with today’s filming techniques and visuals, it is much easier to set imagination aside and mindlessly absorb the display on the living-room flat screen. Such technological advancements rob viewers of their ability to imagine scenes, which hinders creative mental capacities.

Reading has always been popularly known to promote creativity, and experts seem to agree. Amber Yayin Wang, a member of the English department of the National Taichung University of Education in Taiwan, had 196 university students fill out a questionnaire linking reading with creative capacities. The study concluded that those who spent more time reading and writing also had higher levels of creative performance. Furthermore, the number of hours spent reading and writing was positively and significantly related to creative thinking.

Beyond creativity, reading has additional benefits which promote capabilities that anybody who wants to be successful must have. Attentive reading supports the development of focus and mental endurance. As indicated by a 2013 study by Gregory S. Berns, Kristina Blaine, Michael J. Prietula and Brandon E. Pye of Emory University titled “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” reading promotes brain connectivity and functioning, while also fostering the ability for an individual to put themselves in another’s shoes. All of these are advantages that do not come from passively watching endless television shows, educationally or otherwise.

Additionally, reading a book has the potential to be a much greater personal experience than any movie or television show could. Books do not carry the same barriers that television shows and films do, such as time restraints, which may compromise a story by rushing through an unsatisfying ending, or which may not allow for a deep storyline or character development. Books allow for complexity. They take time and attention to complete. They allow for intricate and detailed storylines and engagement that very few shows or movies have the time and patience to develop. A thought-out written work enables a deeper, more involved reading experience than could ever be provided by a “Netflix original,” and thus it is more satisfying upon completion.

It is sometimes tempting for people to seek out more relaxed and entertaining ways of obtaining information. But, as I’m sure most realize, shortcuts don’t leave much room for fulfillment, pride or confidence that something has been learned thoroughly. If someone truly wishes to be successful academically, professionally and personally, avid reading, whether for work or for fun, is an excellent way to develop some of the most vital tools, including mental creativity, focus and endurance, along with the ability to better see things through another’s eyes.

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