As a distance learner, are you wasting your time if you read novels?
I would argue you’re not.
While many people espouse the benefits of reading nonfiction books (of which there are many), many do not give novels credit where credit is due.
Novels can really be helpful for distance learners. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why.
1. Reading novels can help you concentrate for longer periods of time
The Internet teaches our brains to scan instead of read.
I’ve found that after reading for hours online, it can be difficult to transition to reading a novel. During those times, I feel distracted by the book, since it requires me not to skim but to concentrate for much longer periods of time than I’m used to when browsing the Internet.
Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar when you crack open a textbook after reading online.
A 2019 study suggests that our attention spans have been shrinking in recent years. Social media, 24-hour news, and other products of the digital age are largely to blame for this.
To counteract a shrinking attention span, try reading a novel. By helping you practice concentration, reading a novel helps you develop a longer attention span. And a longer attention span can help you focus during class.
2. Reading novels can foster a love of reading
It can be tiresome if you only read academic books that require a lot of intensive thinking. Sticking with only those books you are required to read may zap some of the fun out of reading.
But with novels, the stuff you’re reading likely won’t apply to your life outside of the book. That’s why I like novels—because they’re “brain candy.”
I like to use this analogy: If all the exercise you do is strenuous, taxing workouts, you may be more likely to quit than you would be if you integrated some “just-for-fun” workouts (like a hike or a favorite sport) into your exercise routine.
In the same way, reading something for the simple joy of reading can help you stick with the habit, even when you aren’t required to read a book. And learning to love reading will help you to love learning (in general).
3. Reading novels can help you improve your writing
Being exposed to the proper use of grammatical rules on a regular basis will help you polish your own writing. This is especially good when you’re taking classes that involve writing multiple papers throughout the semester.
Finally, the best novels have a cadence that flows. So, if you want your papers to flow, get exposed to what good cadence looks like by reading a great novel.
4. Reading novels can teach you new words
As a distance learner, your classes can vary wildly between multiple fields, so having a wide variety of words to draw from can be useful. Often, I find myself learning at least a few new words when I’m reading a novel.
Side note: The built-in dictionary features of an e-book reader (such as an Amazon Kindle), can make it easier for you to expand your vocabulary.
5. Reading novels can help you practice retaining information
Did you know you can mold your brain? This is a concept known as neural plasticity.
So, if you have trouble remembering necessary facts for an exam, you may want to mold your brain in a way that improves your memory. This is where novels can be handy.
With a lot of good novels, you have to juggle the names of multiple characters, places, fictional organizations, etc. You have to remember if a character is a villain, hero, or neither.
If you’re reading sci-fi or fantasy, you likely have to remember the names of different creatures, locations, and devices that are part of that universe.
Remembering all this stuff may not be of much use outside of reading the novel, but it allows you to get used to the idea of remembering specific pieces of information. This in turn may help you remember much-needed info for your tests.
I know you have a lot of reading to do for school. But I encourage you to mix up your reading diet with a fun novel. I think you’ll be surprised with how beneficial this practice can be.