Photo by Creative Commons

Photo by Creative Commons

Go read a book. Please?

Luke Young

Managing Editor



Many people, older and wiser than I, have claimed that “Reading is important!” and “You won’t pass classes if you just skim Sparknotes!” In arguments with people I’ve met in passing, they’ll argue the opposite, and say that it saves time and effort to absorb books from a website or an easier-to-digest source. I am here to claim the opposite.

Noted early education theorist Jeanne Chall wrote in her “Stages of Reading Development”, “From preschool to third grade you learn to read, but from then on, you read to learn.” This saying is the basis on which most modern education is built. For the first few years of your life, schools attempt to teach you how to sound out words and think about their meaning. Teachers practically beg parents to read with their kids at home and model the behavior whenever possible. Building up from “Fly Guy” and “Go, Dog. Go!” is much less humiliating when those books are in your age range. Children who don’t gain a solid footing in childhood must learn to read later in life if they don’t want to ruin their chances of graduating by failing classes that have books they can’t understand.

Reading is a gateway to new ideas and different perspectives that expand upon the experiences of the reader and give them more insight into how the world works. Reading a history book gives context to the actions and events that led to a society being the way that it is now. Looking into these historical periods paints a picture of people who lived, loved, sang, and ran just like you and I. Ancient graffiti covers the walls of Pompeii, put there by real people, saying “I was here.” Oftentimes people forget that those who came before them lived and died, just as they do. I will readily admit that I’m not too fond of reading history books, but thinking of George Washington telling a bad joke makes it easier for a non-history buff like myself.

Fiction, especially books that have stood the test of time, may offer insight into what the future may hold or what the past could have been. “Fahrenheit 451”, a classic about humanity rejecting books and systematically destroying them, says “So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.” A good book can give a closer view from which to reflect on life. Books of value leave a part of themselves with the reader, and help that person to grow into a better, more understanding person. 

I was given the privilege to be born into a family that not only loves to read but with people who teach young kids as well. I grew up surrounded by books, reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Big Nate” like many other children around the world. I got a library card as soon as I could, but have always enjoyed owning books so that I could reread them when the story has faded from my mind. I always picked up something new from stories I reread, and no other stories had as much depth as the classics. I didn’t start out reading “Dracula” or “The Grapes of Wrath”, but I did read “The Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time,” more age-appropriate classics. From these books, I learned vocabulary and other skills that have served me well through my short but well-read life. 

I have also been gifted with superb English teachers, who continued my mother’s penchant for assigning classics. These teachers pushed me to dig deeper into stories, and not just see them for what they appear to be, but understand them with context from history and comparison to other books. My essays and discussions have brought me skills in writing, as well as an ability to think in larger terms than I had prior. Reading boosts vocabulary, and an increased vocabulary allows you to express yourself more thoroughly and clearly.

We are all collections of ideas from the people we’ve met, read about, or seen. We build upon the ideas of those we’ve met and including more people’s ideas solidifies and expands the foundation we stand on. Mark Twain once said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” Classics open up many gateways to expanding your worldview, which makes you more well-rounded as a person.

This said I implore you to go read a good book. Lamson Library is open variable hours, and you can sign out books using just your student ID. There’s also a cheap but good bookstore downtown called The Readery linked with an ice cream shop, so you can enjoy a cold treat while you read. If poetry is more your jam, look into PSU Poets and Writers. I hear they publish a new book of poetry every semester. Books I would personally recommend include “The Outsiders” or “Fahrenheit 451,” but the choice of book is up to you. Good luck and happy reading!