South students escape into literature during quarantine

Shannon Mathew, staff writer

When the pandemic limited people to their homes, restricted social activity and caused school to move into an online space, many students experienced screen time overload, librarian Lauren Gruber said. This disruption, however, also provided time for students to read for their own pleasure, helping them cope with stress from the pandemic, Gruber said.

Unlike reading for a class, reading for yourself offers enjoyment and self-betterment, Gruber said. Reading for pleasure can expand one’s empathy, vocabulary and understanding of the world and oneself, Gruer explained.

“Reading is a wonderful alternative to screen time and [it] serves as a much-needed escape from the stress and uncertainty that Covid-19 creates,” Gruber said. “There is [an] element of escapism [making] reading very therapeutic.”

Reading for pleasure is not something that a lot of high school students are able to do simply because they are too busy, Head Librarian Christi Shaner acknowledged. South students have full lives and reading for pleasure often gets lost in the mix, Shaner said, but the lockdown changed that.

“The students weren’t at school, they weren’t socializing much and most of them probably weren’t  working during the shutdown [which] allowed them the opportunity to re-examine their interests,” Shaner said. “Luckily, those interests included reading for pleasure.”

For senior Cathy Choi, quarantine gave her a lot of free time to pursue reading for pleasure, something she lacked during the school year, she said. Choi looked forward to the time when she finished all her schoolwork and could finally open up another book.

“Other than being a distraction from the abject horror of what was happening outside of my little bubble of home, reading was a sort of mental recalibration,” Choi said.

Similarly, senior Katie Durow felt lost in the spring because most of her extracurricular activities were canceled and she could not see her friends. Reading gave her a fun and worthwhile pastime throughout isolation, Durow said.

“Books have gotten me through a variety of hard times in my life,” Durow said. “I think that having a love of reading, most notably fantasy, has helped me to see the magic in my daily life and have a more optimistic view in the face of hardship.”

Durow shared that there are multiple benefits to reading for pleasure, including giving one’s eyes a good rest from scrolling through their phone. Durow added that being a voracious reader statistically helps students do better in school by improving vocabulary, logical thinking and analysis skills.

“Reading helps you gain a greater understanding of yourself and other people through reading about current events or even fiction,” Durow said.

Choi agreed that reading has helped her grow, opening her up to ideas she otherwise would never encounter. It was through reading she learned about topics from grief to government corruption.

“Reading prompted me to be more open-minded and more firm about my stances regarding issues I cared about,” Choi said. “Regardless of what kind of book [I was] reading, it kept [my] mind sharp.”