Before everybody had their own dot com and even before the advent of television, there remained one activity that both entertained and spread knowledge like wildfire. Books. Some books make us laugh our asses off. Others open our eyes to the problems of the world. Whatever your reason for opening a book, chances are you don’t do it as much as you should. Television and, more recently, the Internet can be blamed for the serious draught in time allotted for reading among college students. Despite the negative and positive aspects of new media, it is up to students to regain the love for the written word.
If you are reading this, consider yourself lucky. You are part of the literate world. Vast libraries provide you with endless amounts of information, all for free. So, why is it not cool to stay at home on a Friday night curled up with an enthralling piece of literature? The reason is many students in our society would rather check their email than pick up a good book.
Aside from the instant gratification of modern entertainment, many students don’t read because they associate the activity with school. For these students, reading is a painstaking experience that should be avoided at all times. Nevertheless, if certain steps are taken, even those most reluctant can reap the many benefits of reading.
Before one ever picks up a book he/she needs to be taught how to read. This is where teachers come in. Teachers are vitally important for new readers and their role hardly diminishes on the college level. Along with working with students to better understand readings, teachers must find the right balance between assigning too little and too much reading. Students may lose their ambition if too little reading is required, but, inversely, if too much reading is assigned, students may not be able to keep up.
Teachers should only assign books that will engage students. These books should give a broad range of ideas and views rather than wasting time on frivolous content. If a student is taking five or six classes that each require upwards of a hundred pages of reading per class, the fact is, unless that student lives in a bubble, the reading won’t get done. Still, teachers should not shy away from recommending additional readings. These could encompass a “To Read” list to tackle once the craziness of school is just a memory.
Schools in general should require more reading courses. Temple’s reading core for most majors is limited to College Composition and two Intellectual Heritage classes. These are not enough to build a solid foundation for a well-read student. Also, teachers shouldn’t include works that they can’t teach effectively or aren’t interested in teaching. As many past and present IH students can attest to, this results in a boring experience for everyone involved. Course-specific reading lists should be made available prior to class registration so students can pick classes that discuss books that interest them. The Temple University Bookstore’s prices should be sizably cut to accommodate the average college student’s budget.
Ultimately, the most change has to happen within students. Students need to realize that the obligation of reading is to nobody but themselves. While it is unthinkable to expect the alleviation of TV and Internet for books, these media cannot be considered a substitute for reading.
Whether it’s Dickens or this very newspaper, don’t let a day go by that you don’t read something. Reading is still the best way to stay informed. Plus, it is actually fun.