Common Knowledge: Reading vs. Watching

Gabriala Scottaline, Contributing Writer

The other day I was momentarily stumped. I was wondering why so many people (including myself) think reading is better than watching a show or movie?  Both forms of entertainment have a story with a beginning, middle and end. There are interesting characters, a moving plot ,and you most likely come away from both with something to think about. So, why is reading more commonly asserted as being “better” for you?

Well, it’s simple really. Whatever requires more discipline, concentration and brain power will inevitably be considered the more productive pass time.

Now, I’m not dissing Hollywood entertainment. I enjoy a good TV show or movie as much as the next gal, but I believe there is a experience in reading that can never be matched by a major motion picture.

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

The reading vs watching debate applies especially to fiction. How is a fictional book better than “vegging out” on the couch to a riveting fiction movie, you ask? The way I see it, a movie is the lazy way out. The thinking is basically done for you. When reading a book you can cast your own actors and actresses, and make up your own background music. You don’t have to be manipulated by Hollywood, you can let your imagination run free! That is, if digital entertainment hasn’t already demolished it.

Take the “Hunger Games” trilogy, for example. These books have revolutionized the way I judge a good teen fiction. They have every aspect of a mesmerizing page-turner, without the disappointment of it being too short nor too drawn out. But, I just know that the movie is not going to do the book justice.

The movie creators and directors will dictate what we should be feeling with every scene, melody and facial expression of the characters. They will have graphics that won’t be able to hold a candle to your imagination, and they will most likely change the story to fit into the approximate hour and thirty minute timeline.

Granted, I will go see it and it will probably entertain me, but it will definitely lack a certain personal touch that only a reader has the power to add.

Ultimately, reading takes more time and effort than watching. It requires a little more motivation and a little more concentration. But, I believe the rewards are worth it. We have not only learned that in order to be entertained we must keep our thinking and doing to a minimum, but we have been provided the resources for doing so.

Today we have the technology to indulge our lazy side, and feel good about it. With all the distractions from these new gadgets, we’ve forgotten to teach our kids how to read! According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “It is estimated that more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because they have reading problems.”

So, the next time you are feeling lethargic and in need of some quality time with your TV, maybe you should cue up your imaginative powers, take advantage of the knowledge you’ve been given and curl up with a book instead.

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” – Angela Carter

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” Groucho Marx

What do you think?