Why Reading Matters To George Mason University Students


During spring 2000, we invited undergraduate students to reflect on why-or if-reading mattered to them. Below we include many of their responses.

Students all maintained that reading did matter. Why? Some enthusiastically endorse the pleasures of reading, its invitation to escape into another world. Many affirm reading as an essential tool, a way to learn what you need to know. In a highly technical society, others recognized, reading is necessary to get ahead. Some saw reading as a way to look into other lives-to glean understanding of those different from ourselves; to breach the gap of historical distance in imagination; to reach across national and cultural boundaries in empathy with people across the globe.

Student Responses

Patrick Apple

Reading only matters to those who read÷.Personally my favorite topics when reading vary from pure fiction (not the cheesy supermarket stuff!) to educational and religious (usually Eastern mysticism). Reading has helped me become a more critical thinker. It has also broadened my knowledge of the world and helped me develop a more complex vocabulary-one that keeps growing. I anticipate telling my children this one day and hope they believe me and read as avidly as I do. People who do not read have a tendency to scare me. Lauren Zanelli Reading helps me escape reality and helps me explore other realities. I love the escapism in reading; a novel to me is much more than words on the page. When I read, I can intertwine myself into the story. I usually connect with a certain character and in my mind's eye I become that character, experiencing everything that he/she does in the novel. I guess it sounds quite delusional, but I can tell you one thing: It beats watching television. I walk away from novels a better person. Through reading, I understand the world and people in it more. I think reading can improve one's life, but only when one truly reads. There are so many people who just read words and to be a real reader one has to do much more; one has to see the meanings and stories behind the words. I hope that I'm not the only person who reads this way!

Tammy Becker

Reading expands our view of the world infinitely÷.Reading can be life changing-in small ways or major ones. We can choose a new experience, any time we want. With reading, you may not literally "be there," but you can experience it just the same. I am always amazed when I hear someone say, "I don't like to read." I'm glad I didn't miss trying to tackle Dante. And I still love Dr. Seuss. How can you "not like" anything in between? The Shipping News and 101 Famous Poems are my favorite books. In the first, the descriptions are like poetry; they are art. The characters are absolutely believable. I love being in that universe for a while÷.The book of poetry was a gift, twenty years ago, from my step-grandmother. She had a copy for 45 years before she gave one to me. Reading it is, every time, an experience I "share" with her and with every reader who read them years ago. That amazes me.

We would all be much different-and much more limited-people if we had not read the things we have. My stepmother was a teacher and I feel lucky that she taught me its importance.

Jacki Campbell

Reading someone's thoughts and/or composing your own is an entirely different experience than speaking to people. When you read there is time to go over passages and try and figure out what was really meant. You can talk back to the writer as they are speaking without interrupting them. You can stop and highlight passages you find thought provoking or troublesome. Reading allows for communication between people who have never or will never meet. In particular the Internet reinforces how important reading is. If you could not read you would be missing out on one of the great tools for finding information and staying in touch with the world without having to buy a newspaper or turn on your TV. Reading is important because it can be a great solitary experience where people in incredibly busy lives allow themselves an hour or so to be taken over by someone else's thoughts and experiences. A good example of this is when you ride the subway. People will balance their purses, brief cases, book bags while standing up, all to be able to read their book or newspaper. Reading can also be a great group or bonding activity between child and adult.

Kendra Ceccucci

Reading is an important part in everyone's life, we are able to accomplish so much with the ability to read. I personally enjoy most kinds of reading, but usually reading that is done by choice. I enjoy reading in spare time with a book that I wanted to read. I think that reading opens new opportunities and ideas. Reading can help with understanding, moods or just to pass a rainy day. I find reading very important in anyone's life and it is something that must be kept up and taught early. We should all take advantage of reading.

Calandra Dixon

÷Reading allows us to readily fill our minds with all types of information÷.I personally enjoy reading. Not only does it allow me time for the relaxation of my mind, but it also gives me the opportunity to expand my knowledge.

Heather Doerr

Reading is an art. It is more than just comprehending words on paper. It is an interactive and lively experience for the imagination and a respite for the soul. Characters and story plots come alive in the mind. An entire world can be created simply by letting the imagination digest the language. Society today speeds along so fast that it doesn't take the time to stop and soak in life. Reading lets one enjoy the world around, through personal experiences and point of view. All memories and senses are awake when reading and yet while the outside world is still, the mind and imagination run wild. Reading gives temporary reprieve from the pressures of life and creates a new identity and a new environment. It is about learning. New ideas and opinions are introduced. Theories are proven or disproved. Reading is discovery in its most basic element.

Rachel Donelson

Reading connects me to the rest of the world and helps me define who I am. If you are what you know, what I read is tightly intertwined with who I was, who I am now, and who I will become. I go through phases of what I like to read. When I was young, I liked to read about historical children's adventures, like Little House or Tom Sawyer. In high school I read a lot of mid-twentieth century novels, from the beatniks to the dystopian visionaries. Now I've finally expanded my world to include nonfiction. Reading helps me get out of my mental ruts; it helps me accept other people's ideas. It can also connect me to people of the past. There's something comforting about knowing that my questions and faults are similar to the ones St. Augustine struggled with when he was my age-even though he lived 1700 years ago. Reading makes the vastness of space-time smaller and more manageable.

Adrian Donovan

÷Fiction books allow you to use your imagination to travel to distant worlds÷.I also enjoy reading mysteries for fun because they really make you think about what is going to happen next÷.I do not like to read nonfiction much. A lot of the materials that are given to use to read in English classes I find to be extremely boring. I do not like to be forced to read something I do not want to. I usually read something every day. Every day I read two or three newspapers to keep up on world events. I read a lot of magazines each week. Every day I check websites on the Internet and catch up on what is happening in the sports and entertainment world.

Eddie Exline

Just as out bodies need appropriate amounts of food and exercise to function properly, so do our minds need a similar type thing. Reading provides the mind with the food and exercise it needs to be sharp and efficient. It strengthens the muscles of the mind. Reading is good because it's great to get lost in a good story; it helps to alleviate the pressures of everyday life. Reading is the best way to become educated. Even if you don't go to school, reading can broaden a person's horizons and teach new things. Obviously, reading is a requirement to get by in today's world-and has been for some time. A literate society is far more likely to be prosperous and peaceful than a society that is not literate.

Cheryl Gallagher

÷.I like to read poetry and personal narratives. I enjoy reading and analyzing these types of literature in order to draw conclusions about the author and his/her style and purpose for writing. I do not particularly enjoy reading from text books such as biology and geography. For fun I like to read poetry÷.I like to read poems about feelings and emotions because I can sometimes relate to what I am reading. If I cannot relate to what I am reading, I can learn from other people's experiences.

Alessandra Gazzo

I believe that reading functions as a means of expanding your world. It is a way to gain new perspectives on your world as well as learning about things which are completely out of your everyday life. By reading you can experience things which would otherwise be impossible. We do not live long enough to see or do anywhere near all that we would like to. Reading provides an opportunity to get a glimpse of some more of those things we cannot do.

Mark Geary

I think reading matters for several reasons. Unlike the pure study of history, which usually is based on fact and research, literature allows a person to see the culture firsthand. The written word is the only real link we have to peoples of another time and culture, and the only real way we can experience those places as if we were part of them. The importance of reading is not purely for pleasure or improvement; it is a way to share a common experience with people from all walks of life, throughout the spans of time. If you've ever read Hawthorne, then you share that experience with people of a hundred years ago. The shared experience is what allows us to remember who we are, and who we were as a society. Without the written word, we're fractured as a society, and cannot truly understand the subtleties of history. Reading's importance is that no matter who you are, you can take part in a shared experience.

Faith Gieseke

While I think reading is important for all the reasons previously mentioned, it is also a necessity to function in today's world. Our world revolves around the written word. We all make contracts every day that are written on the back of sales receipts, movie tickets, dry cleaning stubs, not to mention contracts on a grand scale when we purchase a car or home. For me, reading is an escape; nowhere else can I become totally submerged in a different world than in a book. More so than the theater, a book allows you to use your own imagination to add in or leave out what you want to create your escape.

Sherri Jones

I believe reading matters not only for educational advancement, but because reading is a way to broaden our knowledge and spark new ideas. Reading is a fantastic tool to use to learn new words and gain perspective in various areas of our lives. Reading prompts one to think critically and forces a person to try to gain understanding of a particular topic, discussion or issue. I don't read a lot of books. However, the books I enjoy are mostly those that deal with real life issues. This is my way of gaining greater perspective on a matter or enlightenment. I enjoy reading books of poetry simply to see the types of poetry published by different authors and how one author's poem is totally different in context and style than others.

Tara Lippincott

Reading÷has mattered differently to me depending on what stage of my life I had been in. When I was younger reading mattered for instructional purposes. It enabled me to learn fundamental things. Now that I am older, I am still gaining knowledge from what I read, but more than that I am broadening my views on life. I feel more of a connection to language÷.I am many times moved by what I read and therefore inspired in my own writing. Reading has become more and more a part of my life, my personality and my wisdom.

Lisa Melone

Reading is one of our most treasured human gifts. It expands our minds and broadens our perspectives. It opens up new worlds÷.I read many different kinds of things depending on my mood. Sometimes, I read for pleasure, like a magazine, which I hardly ever get to do. I read human interest type articles and novels. I will even read the back of the cereal box, just to have something to read. I find reading relaxes me. When I want to challenge myself, I read articles and books in Spanish.

Menno Christian Moes

Why does reading matter? Why does living matter? Why does breathing matter? The truth of the matter is that reading is very important. Without reading you could miss out on the most important and beautiful things in life. Without reading you could make the biggest mistakes of your life. You wouldn't be able to read about the past and your ancestors, or the future and other worlds. So, why does reading matter? Because your life depends on it. Because you could travel far and away to places that are out of this world. Because you need to know just in case you get to the one $1 million dollar question. Just because you need to understand. And yeah! That's my final answer!

Jillian Moore

Reading is an important part of our lives. To do anything today it is necessary to be able to read. When we watch television we are given the biased perspective of the person who is producing the program÷.Reading aids in allowing individuals to do their own research and come to their own conclusions÷. Reading challenges, relaxes, and even causes stress for people. It is a way to discover oneself÷ Blythe Rowe Reading allows for expansion of the mind. Not only does it help with simple things like building vocabulary, but it also introduces one to new ideas. Reading can be used for educational and relaxation purposes; it is a forum which allows people to communicate almost exactly what they are thinking÷.reading is important because it is one of the few things surviving in our technology-riddled world that promotes the expansion of the imagination. Reading a novel is a perfect example. Before the blockbuster movie based on the book comes out, you can imagine every detail for yourself. The texture of the heroine's hair, the countryside in which she lives, and just how perfect her features are. A book without pictures is a ticket to a journey through your own mind.

Jomanna Musmar

In response to the question why reading matters, I believe that it is important for a person to be able to read and write, because the knowledge of language is an important aspect in communication and identity. Your language is your identity and your only form of communication and expression. Writing is an important vessel in expressing one's feelings and emotions and also communicating that to others accurately and fully. If it is Urdu, Arabic, French or English, knowledge of reading and writing that language is imperative to a person's relation to others and to one's self. This is in order to communicate and spread whatever message to others precisely, and then receive or read the response as well.

Kevin Palmietto

Reading is important because it can help you develop a firm grasp on the English language. Reading can also help you with real world issues and problems by identifying them and their roots. I enjoy reading fiction stories. The Catcher in the Rye is my favorite story. The main character was someone I rooted for. I wanted things to work out for him. I could also identify with him when I was at a younger age. The Catcher in the Rye is a story I could read over and over and still not become bored. It is stories like these that compelled my interest in becoming a writer. Of course I'm nowhere close to being one but it is something I think I could do for a lifetime.

Christian Sachek

Reading matters because the more you read the larger your world becomes. Some would say that if you are online your world becomes larger. However, the characters on the website won't mean a thing if you can't read them. Reading allows you to see things through another human being's eyes. Being able to see events, experiences, people, and eras from many different perspectives if what makes reading matter. Everyone sees a little differently, a little more abstractly, etc÷.Reading lets you see things you may have thought were simple in new exciting complex ways. It also allows you to see things you never knew existed. That's why reading matters to me.

Imran Shah

Reading matters because reading educates. The countries that lack in literary arts and reading are the countries that are labeled as "Third World" because they lack the knowledge that comes with reading. Knowledge that is written, if preserved, is immortal. The reading of various books enhances one's breadth of knowledge. It is with great anticipation that I read the daily newspaper or open up a book for one of my classes because I know that when I read there are no limits to the new things that I can learn.

Mahvash Shah

Reading provides sustenance to one's literary background; helps one in thorough understanding of concepts that one is unaware of and further enlightens and feeds the mind; prepares us for speech and knowledgeable addresses at any point of our lives. Reading is fun. Reading helps you polish your vocabulary as you constantly come across new and exciting words in every piece of writing .I can read anywhere be it a train, in the restroom, walking somewhere and interestingly enough in the noisiest corner of school (unlike some that absolutely have to walk in the Library and select a quiet corner). I like to read magazines, newspapers, Readers Digest and fun material like recipes, horoscope etc. Reading educates; strengthens your confidence by giving you the power of knowledge and puts you ahead in the race for learning. 'Reading' is 'Leading.' In today's world, everyone who is learned is successful. I believe that if one is educated and applies it in the right direction, it matters. In fact that is all that matters. Thank you for letting me be a part of this.

Marti Vogel

Reading is a necessity in today's world. I believe that adults who are unable to read have a decreased quality of life. Whether for personal enjoyment, business activities or academic purposes, reading broadens your spectrum of knowledge. I am hoping to get to the Newseum in Arlington soon. They make a great point in their commercials. Without journalism, many people around the world would not know what is going on. Although some of this is television, it also includes print journalism. Reading allows you to "get away" from life for a while. Sometimes there is nothing better than a good book and a cup of coffee! I enjoy reading a broad range of things, but if I had to narrow it down I like drama or nonfiction writing about Native Americans. I like drama with romance in it but I can NOT stand romance novels where the whole point of the story is someone's undying passion for another! In the movies, however, I need a more action type!

Angela Yates

I feel reading matters because it provides a base for a learning society÷.reading can be experienced at many different levels, reading to learn or reading for pleasure or reading to expand your horizon. Being an English major I feel I read at all these levels whenever I am reading. It gives me enjoyment to be able to read something that someone has put time and effort into. Reading opens new worlds of imagination whether they be creative or scientific.

Rebecca Walter

I think reading is such an active process, unlike the inactivity involved in watching TV. I liken it to music videos and how they have destroyed imagination in a way. (Another reason I'm glad I don't have cable!) When you hear a song, you sort of imagine the characters in your head, the colors, the smells, the sounds. Your experiences, your culture, and everything about you shapes the people, scenes, events, and messages in a song. Music videos take away that creative process and sometimes folks tend to equate the song with the music video. I think reading versus watching television is a very similar analogy.

Reading lets us escape, question, analyze, challenge, engage in so many wonderful experiences. It allows us to share so many ideas with each other. I remember when I read Marilyn French's The War Against Women and how infuriated I got over some of the issues raised in the book. It was so well written and so powerful. I then went on to read her book The Women's Room-a feminist novel written in the 1970s. The book is just as powerful today, in 2000. I had the great fortune of meeting Ms. French in the fall of 1998 and telling her what an impact she had on my life. I'm sorry, but I could never say that about a television show!