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To Read or Not to Read


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Ever since I could remember, there were always books in my house–from the tall bookshelf in my mom’s office down the stairs to the little bookcases jammed with novels in every bedroom.. Neither of my parents were the scholarly types (in fact, neither of them went to college), but they knew how important books were to a child’s growth. I remember my mom reading to me when I was very little, and when she had stopped, I grew curious of the books my older sisters were reading, which resulted in my reading the first Harry Potter in the third grade and finishing the whole series before the year was over.

The annual Scholastic book fair became a goldmine for a hungry reader such as me, and I would almost always buy the biggest books on the shelves, ignoring the cute erasers and the cool posters for sale by the cashier and on the central table. Visits to the school library were like trips to Disney, where I could swap books and read a new novel or Zoobook. I would have weekly visits to the bookstore, a routine that my father was more than happy to follow, and I’d always come home to devour my Book Of the Week before returning the following Sunday to get my fix. Occasionally, I would hungrily snoop around my sisters’ shelves like a buzzard over a highway and pick out the books they had already torn through. I was a ruthless book reader, and I took no prisoners.

However, it took me a while to realize that not everybody shared my fascination with books. Other students would moan about having to read a single chapter as an assignment, while it wouldn’t even faze me to go through two. They would scoff when I tell them the number of pages I was reading, seeming almost offended that I was reading a 700-paged-book willingly. They were dumbfounded that I knew certain words or how to spell properly while I was dumbfounded that they couldn’t tell the difference between to, too, and two.

Of course, such hostilities aren’t as rampant here in Mercy High School, but they are still here, and they are largely present in other schools and even in the media, as bibliophiles (‘book lovers’) are portrayed as dull, boring, nerdy losers with no friends. Schools try and try to make students love reading, but it’s often a fruitless attempt, as many teenagers leave high school without a single lick of appreciation for books and what they can offer. Most teenagers seem to quake in their boots at the mere thought of becoming that kid with a nose sucked into a book, even though that kid has a statistically higher chance of success than his or her classmates.

Studies have shown that children gain massive benefits from reading and being read to at an early age. Reading can kickstart an aptitude for spelling, memorization, comprehension, mental development, and even improve empathy. While I wouldn’t expect a five year old to sit down and crack open Theodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and discuss nihilism and murder with his or her mom and dad, I still think children should read something to introduce them to reading regularly. Even comic books are a great way to start, as they’re still a form of story telling that requires just about the same skills needed to read a book, despite being mainly pictures and dialogue.

While movies and television shows can be wonderful vehicles of storytelling, especially since they have an immediate visual for viewers, they’re not exactly as difficult as reading a book. When reading a book, try to imagine how characters, places, and even the atmosphere should look. You are also granted a backstage pass into the characters’ thoughts, which helps you to better understand their emotions and the motives.

Seeing both sides of an imaginary conflict can help improve empathy towards others. Sometimes, a person you’ve barely met acts rudely towards you, or even a friend may snap at you seemingly out of nowhere. If you didn’t know any better, you’d just call them a jerk without any thought put into it, but when you add a little bit of empathy, you see less mean people and more strugglers.

So what should you do the next time you’re snowed in and the electricity’s out? Do you just sit and text aimlessly to anyone else suffering in the absence of technology’s grasp? Or do you just put your phone down, pull out a novel that’s been collecting dust on your shelf, curl up in a blanket, and delve into another world? People always claim that they ‘never have the time’ to just sit down and read, but do they really lack the time? Or do they lack an independence from the devices in their hands and the boxes sitting in front of their couches? You’re not a bad person if you don’t read- but when you read, you can always become a better one.

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To Read or Not to Read