Research, or keeping up the desire to read

Going into research implies a strong inclination towards acquiring knowledge and highly developed curiosity. Being a researcher takes time and effort, yet not everyone is willing to spend that much energy acquiring knowledge, sharing discoveries, as well as doing a lot of reading.

We are constantly being told that new generations read less and less, that they spend their time otherwise, and that even if their curiosity has no limit, the written word is dying out confronted with the new media. If the world stops reading, the world will run out of researchers, or so one might think.

As I read Comme un Roman, a book by Daniel Pennac published in 1992, I realised that this book, which is as old as I am, voiced the same concerns about people reading less and less, preferring TV while books are being kicked to the curb. And yet, the author explains that the desire to read is linked to the desire for knowledge, and that this desire has not disappeared, it has only been displaced. He reasons that a young person, once nourished by fairy tales and clamoring for bedtime stories, does not reject reading as a teenager because of television, but because of how he or she was brought up. When reading is presented as a lonely chore to the child and other forms of entertainment as a reward, books are turned into objects instead of stories made of magical words teaching wondrous things, thus a change is wrought and young people are made to rebel against books.

As research students, we are asked to read constantly and profusely. Not only novels but research papers, articles, essays, anything that can help with our work, so that for most of us, what was once a pleasure becomes a chore. Being forced to read, with little time to do so and demanding assignments, it seems that our love of reading withers away in the exact same way. However, it appears that the phenomenon can be reversed, that people can be made to love reading and learning again, if their perception of it is changed. Because actually it is our conception that is false: young people, nowadays, read and write more than previous generations. Technology has made people use the written word without even realizing it. When only a handful of people use to write letters, everyone now texts. When only a small portion of the world had access to books and literature, an ever-expanding portion of the world has access to the internet, and all those people read, and consequently learn. The ways and means have changed, but the curiosity is still out there and so is the will to learn and share.

As students, and future researchers, we are aware of these changes. We know we read more, and we know the mandatory reading we face is not always easy to get through, and sometimes we would rather do something else. However, we fight our own misconceptions every day, and we keep on reading, because in spite of it all, we do still love it. And if as a researcher you feel your reading habits could use a boost, do read Comme un Roman


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