A novel idea: reading found to improve health

Opinion Editor

We have always been told reading was better for us than watching television, but until recently there was no concurrent evidence to support that theory. It was just something our parents told us to get us to turn off the television and pick up a book. The unfortunate truth however is reading is declining. In a techno-centric world, less and less people are picking up books and even fewer finishing them. The Pew Research Center surveyed people over the age of 18 back in 1978, when 92 percent of the country had read at least one book in the last year. In 2014 that number had dropped to 72 percent. In contrast, Americans are spending around 7.5 hours of their days passively browsing the internet, using their smartphones, and watching television.

A recent study published by Tohoku University found that there was, in fact, a negative impact of excessive and prolonged exposure to television. They monitored 276 children, from the ages 5-18 who watched between 0-4 hours of television a day. Finding that those children who watched more television had lower IQ’s, specifically in verbal intelligence. There was also a discovered correlation between those children who watched the most television, and an increase in grey matter in  the frontal cortex. The University stated they would have to run a larger experiment in order to prove causation, however this information by itself is still troubling.

On the opposite side, Emory University ran a study to see the impact of reading on the brain. 21 students were asked to read “Pompeii” by Robert Harris, 30 pages a night. Then in the morning they would come in for MRI’s and for 5 days after they finished reading the book. The study found a connectivity, specifically in the sensorimotor region and in the part of the brain responsible for language. But what was most shocking was the flare in the part of the brain that associates sensation in the body, called grounded cognition. In other words, reading can cause a physical sensation depending on what is happening in the book, to an extent. And these changes to the brain lasted for as long as 5 days after the novel was completed.

“The fact that we are detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain,” said Gregory Berns, author of the study.

You could say that books are the cure, providing stimulation to the parts of the brain television desensitizes. According to the New York Times, digital format book (or e-books) will inevitably pass print books by the year 2018. So why then, when books are so easily accessible, and a person can press a button to download any piece of literature they desire, are people reading less? Whatever one’s particular preference in format is, an appreciation for literature needs to be emphasized. Books are changing with the times, as they should, having always been a reflection on the world around us. Long winding descriptions are being traded for shorter sentences, and a faster paced storyline, possibly due to our now shorter attention spans. With all of our health fads, let’s make the latest one a technology cleanse with an increase of reading in our diets. The health benefits would certainly be a lot more pleasurable than a juice cleanse, or the newest cabbage diet.

Students’ reading habits deeply affected by start of new semester

Entertainment Editor

For many, reading is a gateway to another, less stressful, world. Balancing time to read for class and time just to read for fun is difficult for most students.

“I’m a big supporter of reading, but when I’m in the full swing of a semester I just can’t focus on my own reading, “said visual arts student Emily Sullivan.

Students such as Sullivan have a difficult time finding the balance between required reading and their reading for pleasure because, according to some, there is just too much required reading for classes.

“If I try leisure reading, I tend to fall asleep no matter what I start,” said Ben Foerster, a biology major at CCM. “It isn’t the content, no, but the time I have to read for fun. I feel like I’ve read less since I started school this semester, more than ever in my life.”

There is a fine line of balance, and some students have fallen into habits that impact their school performance.

“One semester, I got caught up in a series of books so bad that I couldn’t put them down,” said Sullivan. “I read probably more than eight books in a three week period, and my grades went down. I had exams. Huge mistake.”

Reading, to some students, is extremely important. In some cases, required readings for school can be fun; most of the time these readings are not.

“Honestly, I have a hard time reading what I’m assigned,”said Kyle Ducote, a history major. “I find the class readings to be so boring, and uninspiring that I just don’t read them. I’d rather use my time better, and read other things, like novels that have meaning.”

Extracurricular reading is far from a ‘bad habit’ but, during a semester, it can prove to be detrimental.

“It’s my last semester here at CCM, and I can’t be bothered with my free reading,” said Kiera Simmons, English education major at CCM. “I’ve got so much for my courses that I can’t even look at my book shelves full of unread books. I’m so stressed out and tired from my class readings that my ‘to be read’ pile has been left entirely unread since January 22.”

Leisure reading during a busy semester is something that many college students just haven’t gotten the grasp of managing into their time yet.

If a student likes to read, then they should do it. It is simple enough, but some either choose to ignore it while the semester is going on or they ignore their other readings, and focus only on the entertainment.