Lynn Sharpe has a list of favourite movies. They are the kind of movies that she can watch over and over again without ever getting tired of them. Included on this list is Almost Famous, which focuses on music, journalism and 1970s groupies. So Sharpe was ecstatic when she discovered in late-August that Pamela De Barres, a real groupie from that time period, had written a memoir titled I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie. The 19-year-old immediately ordered at copy of the book and excitedly started it. However, since returning to Concordia in September, Sharpe hasn’t picked it up once to continue reading.
“I have so many other books I should be reading (for classes)… that I almost feel guilty reading that one,” said Sharpe, who is an English literature and creative writing student.
Sharpe estimates that she spends at least 20 hours on course readings each week. For students like her, the idea of reading extra books during the semester can just feel like added stress. However, studies have shown that picking up an extra novel can actually have the opposite effect.
Multiple studies conducted over the last five years have shown just how beneficial reading as a form of entertainment can be. Not only does it reduce stress, but it improves senses and heightens self-esteem, amongst other benefits. A study conducted in 2015 by Quick Reads, a charity working to improve adult literacy, found that many of these advantages can result from even just 30 minutes of leisure reading per week.
First off, reading improves writing. This is a benefit that Sharpe said she is constantly being told about by her professors, and not without good reason. Reading is an easy way to expand vocabulary and explore different styles of writing. The improvements of language don’t end with writing either. According to brainscape.com, a learning website, reading also helps with speaking. The website explains that the more someone is exposed to written grammar and vocabulary, the easier it is to apply that knowledge to speech.
Being able to choose what to read, as is the case when reading for pleasure, also has its advantages. Quick Reads reported that people who read on their own time were 57 per cent more likely to have a greater awareness of other cultures, as well as being 21 per cent more likely to have greater general knowledge. Being able to choose what books to read means that readers have the opportunity to learn about topics outside of their area of study. However, it isn’t always easy to pick up another book after studying all day.
“You almost don’t even think to (read for pleasure). At the end of the day, I just want to lay down and watch Netflix,” Sharpe said. She explained that, for her, after spending the day reading for classes and assignments, she wants to do something else in order to relax. Nevertheless, when it comes to falling asleep, reading can be the perfect before-bed activity to calm down.
The National Sleep Foundation reported that using screens before going to bed makes it harder to fall asleep, because of the blue light that electronics emit. The foundation recommends putting down phones and laptops at least 30 minutes before going to bed. However, they also recommend finding a routine or a calming activity to do every night before bed. Reading for pleasure can be the ideal thing to fill the time before sleep. A Quick Reads study found that 43 per cent of people who read said it helped them sleep better at night.
“Reading for pleasure is a really different feeling from reading for classes,” Sharpe agreed. “There’s no stress, no deadlines; you’re just doing it for yourself.”
And for Sharpe, taking the time to read for herself, rather than just her courses, could mean finally finishing I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie.