University Writing Center Blog

Posted on November 10th, 2015 in Language by Jennifer Mahoney

by Alexandra Makris, Student Consultant, University Writing Center

Sometimes it seems that the world could be split into those who read and those who do not. Of course, it could be further split into more complicated groupings, such as the “I enjoy reading, but I have a busy life” and the “I don’t like to read, but I have to for school/work” crowds.

The arguments that avid readers like to employ when trying to convince a non-reader that reading is worthwhile range from “You just haven’t found the right book yet!” to “Reading lets you have adventures while sitting on your couch.”

I am going to discuss an alternative.

Reading makes you a better writer.

When you try to memorize vocabulary lists (most of my experience with that was in high school French, in which you were not allowed to enter the classroom until you correctly translated a word), it can be difficult to get the words to stick into long-term memory. Often, it can be hard to think of situations in which to use such lovely zingers such as “ensconce” or “harbinger.” But if you read books, especially a wide variety of books, your vocabulary will naturally grow as you come across new words. Your brain realizes the word in each separate context…maybe you look it up the first time, but after, it will come to your mind when it is necessary.

Books are storehouses of knowledge, of stories, of words conceived by people oftentimes long gone. Most of my favorite authors lived and died before I was even born, but because they wrote books, I am able to appreciate their words, and by extension, their lives. I will confess that I have a slight bias. I have been a lover of books (a bibliophile, if you will) every since I learned to read. In high school, the library was my sanctuary of calm, a place in which I could take life at my own pace and in my own way. As one of the authors who has my literary heart, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, puts it quite wonderfully:

“Books are the most wonderful friends in the world. When you meet them and pick them up, they are always ready to give you a few ideas. When you put them down, they never get mad; when you take them up again, they seem to enrich you all the more.”
Fulton J. Sheen, Life Is Worth Living

Human beings gravitate towards narrative, especially if we can relate the story in some way to our own journeys. By reading, we become aware of our own common history with stories, and are able to use our languages to a much fuller extent than if we were to go by Facebook or Twitter status alone.