Written by Grace Schrobilgen
During my first year at UT, I stopped reading for pleasure. I was so overwhelmed by assigned readings for classes that I began to forget how much I relish leafing through the pages of a book and allowing myself to become attached to a character, concept, or storyline. Reading stimulates the mind more than Netflix ever could and exposes one to new rhetorical structures, vocabulary, and voices. When you read, you are not only enjoying someone else’s work but also improving your own.
Over the summer, I started reading again. The first book I cracked open during the break was One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman, which tells the true story of her husband, a writer, having a stroke and losing his language abilities. I read it based on a recommendation from a friend and enjoyed it but didn’t realize the true benefit it brought me until classes started again. I’m enrolled in a Spanish linguistics class, where every concept was foreign to me until we started discussing aphasia and language reacquisition, which I had been exposed to through this book I had been reading for fun.
Surrounding myself with the words of eloquent, accomplished writers made a noticeable difference in my writing and thinking processes.
Amanda Wolf, a sophomore psychology major, has a story similar to mine. She used to read for pleasure but has had to take a break from this pastime due to the time required for her classes. Wolf says if she did have the time, it would complement the work she does in her daily academic life. “Reading helps with English and writing, and pretty much every class requires one of the two. Reading can be enjoyable and a good break from studying, and I think that personally, if I had more time to read for pleasure, I would.”
For those who study in the College of Liberal Arts, it is not uncommon to have hundreds of pages of reading per night and multiple essays each week. While we are passionate about the classes we take, the discourse we read is not always what one would call engaging. Thus, we don’t gain as much from it in terms of writing style.
The sheer number of these assigned readings prevents us from having the time to read books that truly interest us and might bring more benefit to our writing.
Julia Vastano, a sophomore history and government major, reads for pleasure. She read so many books over the summer that she created an Instagram account, @bookedallsummer, where she posted about all of her literary undertakings. She said that:
“Reading for pleasure hasn’t really ever been a hobby for me. It’s more of a way of life.”
This is often the case for young children. We learn to read, we become hooked, and we never look back. For Vastano, the love of reading she developed as a child turned into a knack for writing.
After a teacher told her that her writing was “ridiculously superfluous,” Vastano realized that the types of books she was choosing to read were influencing her style and causing it to sound pretentious. Using this as a learning experience, Vastano said “After that I would try to pick up more books with a more minimalistic or academic style to help improve my scholastic writing style, and it did.”
Reading allows you to widen your vocabulary and write with more fluidity. Last year, I would watch an episode of a television series when I had a few minutes of free time. Now, I read a book.
Featured image © Sam Greenhalgh. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.