As midterms approach, students often feel like they don’t have time to do anything but go to classes, eat, and study – and maybe sleep, if they can fit it in.
At this point in the semester, clubs, exercise, and socializing take considerable effort to work into schedules. One extracurricular that’s worth the effort, however, is reading books outside of class.
Whether it’s “The Republic” in philosophy or each of a dozen different works in Great Books classes, Hillsdale students read plenty of books.
Though we’re taught to appreciate the value of reading, when was the last time you read a book for yourself?
Making time for leisure reading is both valuable and enjoyable. There is something unique about reading for pleasure that sets itself apart from the hours of reading you do for class every night.
As you pick your way through 40 pages of “The Odyssey” for class at 9 a.m. tomorrow, each page denser than the last, you aren’t really reading critically, or looking for depth of understanding. Unless you’re writing a paper on it, you’re looking for a surface-level take that will be sufficient to write your discussion post about. Maybe you’ll even raise your hand in class and make a point or ask about something arbitrary.
Even if you would enjoy the readings under different circumstances, there’s something stressful about reading because you have to scan a text for the kind of minor details that tend to appear on quizzes, which takes nearly all the would-be joy out of it.
Leisure reading, however, is entirely different. It’s right there in the name. Though you may not have experienced it since middle school, reading can still be fun. You may even learn something from it.
You just have to give yourself the opportunity to enjoy it again.
Devoting just 10 minutes to leisure reading before bed can make a big difference. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a deep breath and step away from your mountain of responsibilities, not to mention allowing you to read books your professors would never dream of assigning in class.
It will also decrease your stress. According to a survey at the University of Saskatchewan, many of the more than 200 health sciences students surveyed reported benefits such as “reduced stress, and improved thinking and communication skills.”
It may also help your grades. In the fall semester of 2020, I made sure to read five pages from a book of my choice, in this case, Raymond E. Feist’s “Shadow of a Dark Queen” before bed every night, whether I was going to sleep at 10:30 p.m. or 3 a.m. Despite taking the most credits I’ve ever had, I earned my highest GPA to date.