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Saturday, May 18, 2024

From a young age, I was obsessed with reading. In middle school, I read to get away from the awkward social pressure surrounding puberty. In high school, I used reading to relax after a long night of studying. I read on the school bus, I read between classes, I read everywhere. Needless to say, I was kind of a huge nerd.

Now in college, I look at the stacks of books on top of my dresser and realize most of them have not been read in a long time. They sit scattered on my dresser and gather dust, mostly because I am suddenly too busy — and too lazy — to read them. When students come to college, personal life and academic life are inseparable. There is a huge variety of shiny new diversions to attract our attention and an overwhelming pressure to make friends and get involved.

When college students do have some relaxation time, we generally turn to social media and online activities like Facebook and Netflix to turn off the hectic buzz in our brains for a while. We start to forget the exciting thrill of starting a new book. This is a horrible loss for us as students and as human beings.'

I’m just as much a fan of Netflix as the next girl, but I’ve realized this year how much I’ve missed reading. Reading rejuvenates us and motivates us. It broadens your mind and improves your critical thinking skills, it helps you learn empathy and see other people’s viewpoints, and it’s just plain fun. Reading is good for you; it’s as simple as that.

When I do get the chance to read, I am swept away from all my exams and the stress of college life. It reminds me of how beautiful and complex the world really is.

I call upon everyone, college student or not, to pick up a book today. Not a course packet for class or a meticulously highlighted chemistry textbook, but an actual book.

We are all busy, but we all have those odd moments in the day, walking home or standing in line for coffee, when whipping out a book might be the perfect way to kill some time.

Read fiction, read non-fiction, read any book you want. It can be as fantastical as The Hunger Games, as sophisticated as James Joyce, or as trashy as Fifty Shades of Grey — if that’s what you’re into. Just read something.

In today’s technologically advanced society, where globalization and the Internet have caused us to be constantly connected, easy distractions such as YouTube and Twitter lie at our fingertips.

These social-media outlets are wonderful, full of dreams and possibilities and sometimes just a much-needed laugh. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten books have the exact same possibilities held within their pages. The ability of human beings to create words, sentences and stories and mark them on paper is a precious gift and is the basis for all other forms of learning and entertainment, from history books to song lyrics.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2003 that about 30 million U.S. adults read written prose at a “below basic” level. This means that 14 percent of the U.S. adult population is unable to meaningfully comprehend basic prose writing. The Center also found that more than 60 percent of U.S. prison inmates are functionally illiterate. Even in a country as advanced and developed as the U.S., reading is becoming a lost art among large segments of the population. The U.S. must put more emphasis on early literacy education and must acknowledge and respect the opportunities reading provides.

As students at one of the nation’s top public universities, Gators should especially understand and appreciate the importance of reading. We should do what we can to help promote literacy and remind ourselves of the ways that reading expands our horizons and our imaginations. We don’t have to make a huge commitment, but we can start today.

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Today, we can pick up a book.

Sally Greider is a UF English and public relations sophomore. Her columns appear on Tuesdays.

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