Haasch: Leisure reading provides stress relief from taxing class readings

It's time to make time for leisure reading, even amongst intense course readings.

Palmer Haasch

As a child, I typically read around two books per week. These varied from children’s novels like “Junie B. Jones” to young adult series like “Artemis Fowl” or “Maximum Ride”. From a young age, my parents had helped me to foster a love for reading and fiction by reading to me every night, sometimes for hours. Before we had even met in person, my roommate and I bonded over the fact that each of us reread the entire Harry Potter series every summer. Being a reader has been a central part of my identity since I was a child.

Once I entered college, however, I found myself reading for pleasure less and less as I attempted to stay up to date with all of my readings for class and an assortment of other responsibilities. To be frank, the odds of me wanting to pick up a novel after spending an evening digging through fifty plus pages of literary theory are slim to none. Now, in my third year at University, I feel as if I’ve finally slipped out of the habit of reading. It’s not something that I’m happy about.

It’s hard to force fun reading into my schedule for the sake of academic benefits when, in the moment, it would take away from the time I need to finish a paper or the sleep I need to stay awake in class the next day. However, working in even 20 pages a night of a young adult novel can provide valuable stress relief from the infinitely denser readings or coursework you’ve been doing earlier in the day. It’s certainly a reprieve to switch from Foucault to fantasy.

Alongside the simple pleasure and excitement that comes with leisure reading, there are also numerous benefits to reading for fun. A study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts linked reading for pleasure to higher academic success after investigating the implications of the fact that young Americans are doing less and less leisure reading. Furthermore, the escapist nature of engaging in fiction can provide stress relief from reality.

In light of this, I encourage everyone to make a concentrated effort to actively read a book that isn’t for class. Read 20 pages of a fun novel into your routine before you go to bed. Pick up the book that your roommate has been insisting that you read for months as you eat breakfast. Read an e-book on your phone during the bus ride from Minneapolis to St. Paul. There are innumerable ways to work reading into your schedule, and if you’re anything like me, once I get past a critical point in a novel, I can’t put it down.

Regardless of field of study, making time to incorporate leisure reading into your schedule is absolutely worth it. Immersing yourself in your favorite young adult novel or a new bestseller provides valuable stress relief alongside inherent entertainment value. Although I may not be able to read nearly as much as I did as a ten year old, I’m ready to make the effort to pick up a new book – or maybe, just reread Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.