[Opinion] Reading outside of school improves mental health and critical thinking


Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Noah Dunbar practices his reading skills during a session on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 at Francis W. Parker School. The United Way program, which works on improving reading skills for third graders, is in need of volunteers.

Madison Friedman, Writer

After a long, stressful day of school, the last thing students want to do is open a book for their mind to do some more thinking. Despite the reluctance to read novels outside of school, recent studies have actually shown reading can be seen as a form of therapy due to its reduction of stress and other benefits.

Opening up a book is like starting a new movie or show; reading is a great way to unwind while still using the brain. It is an activity that can work your brain without the actual physical stimulation.

Reading not only helps with brain development, but it also relieves the mind of any worries a person may have. When you read a book, the brain is focused on a character and its problems, instead of an individual’s personal struggles at the time.

In addition, some characters in books even struggle with mental health disorders, like anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The inclusion of these serious topics let the reader know they are not alone, giving them a sense of hope. Reading is a popular coping mechanism that not only allows readers to escape the real world, but permits them to explore one full of endless possibilities.

Furthermore, reading before bed is proven to aid sleep because it engages you in something other than your phone or television screen. Blue light, which comes from electronics, has many negative effects on sleeping as it interferes with our natural sleeping cycles.

Instead of forcing yourself to get into a relaxed state, reading naturally encourages you to do so by reducing tension throughout the body. The activity also allows you to focus on one thing rather than inducing your mind to wander and think about every last task you may need to get done.

With recent book trends on social media platforms like TikTok, more and more people are looking at reading as an enjoyable hobby, rather than a task.

TikTok has been a helping factor in this new observation, especially because of its well-known “book-tok” hashtag, which recommends books from all genres to people who are not naturally inclined to opening a book and reading its content.

Scrolling through the “book-tok” hashtag, I found interesting books like “People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry and “They Both Die at the End” by Adam Silvera. I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, and they even helped me find the right genre for me.

With genres ranging from murder mystery to romance, there is a large variety of books to ensure everyone can find one they enjoy. Additionally, Broward County Public Schools teachers have started assigning short stories with questions intended to improve students’ literary comprehension.

Overall, reading has several benefits that extend outside of its academic usage. If reading is something you have not always been interested in, there are various genres of books to try out. Not only are there various platforms to purchase books, like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, the activity results in improved critical thinking and awareness of different cultures.