Books as exploration: De Anza English faculty discuss reading for leisure

Screens have replaced pages and pixels have replaced ink as more students choose electronics over an open book.

But De Anza College English professors described how reading for leisure has improved both their emotional and academic experiences.

“I choose to read for mental and emotional nourishment,” said Ryan Dickson, a part-time English instructor.

Though this pleasure is not the only benefit to reading.

“Benefits include a broadening of perspective, an appreciation for the diversity of thought,” said Dave Denny, English professor. “[Reading invites] the cultivation of empathy and compassion, and the development of critical and creative faculties as the result of encountering new ideas.”

This recreational reading doesn’t always have to be in the form of a novel. It could be keeping up with local news and reading articles, as English professor Tim Shively does.

“I read journalism everyday,” Shively said. “My go-to news source is the Washington Post — I read stories and try to keep up with the news.”

Shively added that reading is important because students learn how to apply text to their lives. He encourages his class to talk about what they’re reading and writing in order to develop their communication.

“Students need to understand it because it models a certain behavior that can become a more influential practice,” he said.

Another practice reading can influence is writing.

“The more various voices, styles, points of view you encounter, the more you will be able to shape your own voice and point of view,” Dickson said.

Denny agreed.

“Readers who pay close attention to the writers they love learn to cultivate language more effectively,” Denny said. “As Saul Bellow once wrote, ‘Every writer is merely a reader moved to imitation.’”

All three instructors all encouraged students to read different genres from various authors to cultivate a passion for literature.

Shively says he loves spending days in bed with a book in his hand and strives to finish a novel in a day.

“Taking pleasure in language is a universal human trait,” Denny said. “[It] expands the mind, opens the heart, and cultivates moral imagination.”