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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

The importance of reading in college and its positive effects on cognitive function

UC Davis students share books and advice that helped them learn to enjoy reading


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


It’s no secret that reading is good for your brain. In fact, getting into the habit of consistently reading can work wonders for cognitive function, memory retention, stress reduction and general brain performance. College students are often expected to keep up with extensive reading for their courses, and that can become difficult for those who aren’t accustomed to reading regularly. 

           This can also be very difficult for students majoring in the STEM fields — which many Davis students are — who take courses with the most reading they experience in college as part of the general education requirement. In this case, dense readings can definitely pose a challenge, and students are often caught by surprise at the amount and intensity of readings after starting their classes. 

UC Davis students have expressed that learning to read habitually and at a high level is crucial to balancing difficult academic subjects, especially as a new college student. 

“Since starting at Davis, I’ve taken a lot of courses about politics and global policy. It’s easy to fall behind if you’re not used to reading regularly,” Isaiah Phillips, a first-year international relations major, said. “Studying becomes way easier once you’re good at analyzing written material. Reading often can assist with that and help you succeed in your classes, even if you’re just reading books that you find interesting that aren’t necessarily academic.”

 Students at Davis who have found a love for reading discussed the books that helped them find this deeper appreciation as well as how reading has helped them in other areas of their lives. 

Molly Thompson, a first-year communications major, shared her favorite books and stressed the importance of finding reading material that speaks to your style and humor. 

“In terms of favorites, I love anything by Emily Henry and also ‘I Didn’t Know I Needed This’ by Eli Rallo,” Thompson said. “I love Emily Henry novels because they feel like more intellectual rom-coms; they’re fun and comforting but they’re also really well written.”

Thompson continued by sharing how reading can help with cultural, alongside academic, knowledge. 

“A well-read society is a well-functioning society. So much of our culture revolves around media and it’s incredibly important to be adept at interpreting it all. It’s more than just being able to read and comprehend it, it’s about having context and background knowledge and cross-cultural references to use to make sense of it,” Thompson said. “Habitual reading gives us those perspectives. It also gives us the ability to gain those perspectives. Getting good at reading for fun will allow us to also get good at reading academic writing that, while dense, is critical.”

According to the National Library of Medicine, those who read books for an average of 30 minutes per day, which is about a chapter a day, showed a survival advantage compared to those who did not read books. 

Reading regularly is also proven to strengthen our attention spans, which is a crucial skill to develop since the creation of various social media platforms. For example, TikTok and Instagram feature short video clips as people scroll through them. These 15-second to a minute clips have contributed greatly to a widespread decrease in the average attention span. 

Additionally, UC Davis students discussed the importance of practicing reading in order to gain writing skills, which are important for college students to develop early on in order to convey their ideas coherently and successfully complete rigorous writing requirements. 

Olga Muys, a second-year history major, agreed that reading has helped her writing process.

“Learning to enjoy reading and engaging with texts from an early age has absolutely helped me academically, not just in terms of my reading comprehension abilities but also in terms of writing,” Muys said. “‘Brideshead Revisited’ by Evelyn Waugh is one of my favorite books because of how immersive its language and characters are, along with how it examines themes of beauty, sexuality and spirituality.”

Muys continued by giving advice about habitual reading, no matter the kind of material you choose to read.

“I’ve always believed that the best way to learn how to write is to just read as much as you can, especially when you’re young,” Muys said. “You absorb so much about vocabulary and argument and structure, purely through osmosis, even if you’re reading something non-academic.”

As these students have discussed, there are many reasons to pick up a book and immerse yourself into a new story every now and then. There’s no need to force yourself to read books that are considered literary classics, either; the importance of getting accustomed to habitual reading is the key. 

Simply incorporating reading into your routine — even if it’s only for a couple of days each week — might just be a worthwhile investment in your cognitive development and academic performance. 


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org


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