To Read or Not to Read?

Does "Reading Week" need to be re-branded?

by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts & Culture Writer

It was overheard in my Contemporary Visual Culture class. Since for some reason the main discussion before reading week seems to be what students plan to do on the week itself, the professor asks a random student in the seated crowd how he planned to productively spend those seven days of no classes. He responded by saying he was going to Mexico, which was met with some laughter, and maybe even a touch of envy.

Now it may be unfair to assume this student spent no time reading and reviewing. Perhaps amid his southern trek, laying on a warm sandy beach in front of cool blue waters, he managed to buckle down and hit the books, self-imposing to not go outside until he gets all his homework done. It’s a humorous, and even tempting thought. But while it’s technically possible, a trip to Mexico is hardly going to be looked at as a getaway to get extensive schoolwork done.

Some students look at reading week and just see no classes. As a result, the grip they would have during the academic grind is loosened in favour for some rest and relaxation. Some will hang out with friends, others will travel someplace interesting, and perhaps a few will go back home to see their family. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities. Instead, it’s the mentality of the week serving more as a vacation than a time to get any independent work done. This mentality is not exclusive to students either. On Oct. 5 the website Narcity published an article on how to have the best fall reading week while in Toronto. The article included city activities you can engage in, day trips you can embark on and food spots you can hit up. In other words, there was nothing about the article that had anything to do with what the week is designed for. If anything, it seemed to discourage that aspect.

Now I must admit to some hypocrisy, for I was in Toronto myself during a good chunk of the week. But while I experienced the sights and sounds it had to offer, I still managed to fit school work in and prepare for the assignments on the horizon. It is a thing that is very much possible, which led me to realize that reading week shouldn’t be all about relaxing, nor should it be all about studying either. Instead, it’s a hybrid of both, to unwind from the daily grind yet still muster up a productive spirit.

Reading week came particularly early this semester to coincide with Thanksgiving, with classes being suspended just four weeks into the current year. One on hand it seems odd to go on another “vacation” when the memories of summer are still fading from students’ minds. But when you’re being attacked by a heavy course load, any sort of reprieve will feel necessary and appreciated.

“A break was definitely needed,” said first-year student Emily Browne.  Enrolled in the Environmental Science program, Browne felt an obligation to keep up on studying during the week to prepare for two midterms, all while still finding time to unwind and relax.

The longer you’re in a university, the more strategic you start to become. You begin prioritizing the work which has to be done throughout the semester and reading week act as a regrouping period for students. Fourth-year student Steven Love emphasizes the need to take personal time and break away from the monotony of school. While he was afforded little rest time due to developing his thesis, he finds relaxation to be almost as important as getting work done out of the need to relieve some stress.

“You kind of take the first few days, rest, last few days study,” Love said. “It’s all about time management, and people manage their time differently.”

All work and no play can indeed make Jack a dull boy. There’s no shame in wanting to rest during reading week and seek a temporary getaway from the grind. But like just about anything else in life, it is best practised in moderation, and so a balanced approach to reading week is likely the ideal scenario to consider. Take a breather, but keep the priorities in check all the same. Because after all, if you spend the entirety of reading week not picking up a single book or pen, you only place yourself in a compromising situation once classes start back up again, leaving you to lament the fact that maybe you should have done some reading after all.



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