As I sat on a chair in the living room, I was approached by one of my housemates. “Whatcha reading?” she asks. “The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. It’s pretty good; I think you’d like it.” “Really? I wish I had more time to read. I miss reading. It’s just that I already have so much work and reading for school. But let’s go to Barnes and Noble sometime. I really want to get back into it.”
Inevitably, it is now further into the semester, and her desire has not been actualized. However, this is the fate of many students. Students are loaded with a plethora of many academic texts to be absorbed, and by their free time, their reading muscle is overused. Consequentially, they search for a much more mindless activity, such as scrolling on their phones or watching tv.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is prominent when one is juggling leisure and responsibilities. I’m a very big leisure girl, and when I cannot have leisure I feel that the world is crumbling in my hands. I believe that access to leisure is a key component of keeping sanity intact. I am also a big idealist (if you can’t tell by my love for leisure in such a fast-paced society as the United States). I am often faced with a similar dilemma of decreasing my pleasure reading for my academic reading. However, what I will say is that pleasure reading allows us to retain our love for literature.
Pleasure reading grants us the ability to read at our own pace and to reach conclusions independent from those of our teachers/classmates. We engage with the body of work in a personalized manner, and we are intrinsically motivated to read until the end. Pleasure reading holds its importance because of inner motivation. Simply put, the pressure of academic reading takes the enjoyment out of it. There is an expectation attached to academic reading. Usually, there is some paper or discussion to participate in class on a strict timeline.
The Equal Value of Academic and Pleasure Reading
It is essential to make space for both academic reading and pleasure reading.
Pleasure reading is where passion is fueled. Leaning into one’s particular book of choice is a vehicle of ignition. Not to say that academic reading and pleasure are mutually exclusive; however, the fact that a book is imposed on the student can be potentially discouraging. There is a necessary split where we can categorize one and the other. I do like how academic reading can also inspire pleasure reading. I had a moment where I had to read a part of The Women of Brewster Place for my class, and I read the whole thing for fun because I was so taken by the language.
Academic reading and pleasure reading can bleed into each other, and this is truly beautiful. My favorite book I ever read was Of One Blood by Pauline Hopkins. I had to read this one for class, and it is currently sitting pretty on my bookshelf. This book taught me that my favorite genre was speculative fiction. So I reiterate academic reading has the potential to inspire and influence our tastes and propensities for literature.
Also, the more obvious benefit is that, of course, it enhances your academic experience and your knowledge. Again not to say that pleasure reading can’t do this, but the expansion of knowledge and critical thinking skills is usually the primary function of academic reads. I think what does proceed the reader in academic reading is a degree of seriousness towards the text. I say this because I want to recognize how academic reading and pleasure reading both are inherently valuable.
Further, there has been research on the positive effects of pleasure reading on academic outcomes. In the study entitled, Impact of Pleasure Reading on Academic Success, published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Graduate Research, it says that “According to Cullinan (2000), pleasure readers at all grade levels whom scored higher on standardized tests in all subject areas, developed greater reading comprehension skills, had increased fluency, and displayed higher levels of general knowledge.”
So how can a student balance academic reading and pleasure reading?
Highlighting one’s own personal values and priorities can give a reader a type of “map” to navigate the day with. Obviously, there will be times when reading for pleasure will be on the back burner. Personally, I really value reading, as my creative writing is informed by what I am currently indulging in. I have a sort of ritual that assists my nervous system in triggering that “rest and digest” state, in which I snuggle in my bed accompanied by my weighted blanket, herbal tea, and reading pillow, and I read any book for about 20 minutes. This really allows me to relax, and I believe these sorts of rituals give us permission to tell our bodies we care about them.
For example, maybe you are a person who falls asleep the moment you get in your bed, so maybe you’d do your reading ritual with the assistance of your morning coffee. This could be your way of getting your mind turning for the day. So yes, a daily reading ritual is one option.
If a reading ritual is not your thing, I also thought about having a reading “retreat” every now and then. Maybe you and your friends can have a bookstore date once a month. Pick a book, and then just put your nose in it for hours. It is sort of like a “book club,” but a designated time to escape the world and dive into a fictional world and alleviate your academic mind.
What I would like the focus to be on is the value in the designation of time to reading. My sister and I talk about how we must make time to do the things we love because, after all, we are here on earth to enjoy ourselves. We have to prioritize our pleasures! Literature is our solace, our home, our sacred place, and the mortar that lays the foundation of the world. Academic and pleasure reading both have their place, sometimes, you will do more of one and less of the other. It is a part of the natural ebb-and-flow of life. If you have little time, that is okay! Have grace with yourself.
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