Reading is on the decline for college students. According to a 2019 American Time Use survey, individuals aged 15-54 read for pleasure only ten minutes per day on average, compared to 48 minutes for individuals aged 75 and older.
So, what accounts for this difference? Why do the majority of college students not pick up a book for the purpose of leisure reading? The editorial staff attempted to uncover these questions.
Some editors brought the issue of technology into light. One editor pointed out, “Technology has diminished our reading skills because we get distracted by [it] easily and have short attention spans that have a difficult time enduring a full book.”
Indeed, we have entered an era where social media is cherished more than leisure reading. As students begin reading more online material, such as tweets and other social media posts, they tend to push leisure reading aside.
Other than technology, editors attributed a lack of time, preferring other media such as films and video games, and being bombarded with other class assignments to the deficiency of leisure reading among college students.
Most editors have had professors who encourage their students to read outside the assigned textbook readings. However, some editors accurately pointed out that when professors do recommend supplemental readings, students often see it as extra, bothersome homework.
“One editor said, “If [a] class assigns a lot of reading for assignments, it might actually dissuade some students from picking up anymore books if they are dissatisfied.”
Most editors recognize the adverse effects of not making time to read. One editor said, “The more people don’t read, the more their vocabulary, communication, writing, and critical thinking skills will suffer.”
An editor explained, “As an English major, a lot of my professors recommend books to students that they think they’d benefit from or have interest in outside of the classroom. Kind of makes me wonder how many students follow up on those recommendations.”
A professor’s recommendations can certainly fuel an appreciation for reading outside of the classroom. As much as higher ed institutions can promote reading behavior, students somehow still do not value literacy.
In today’s day and age where technology rules all, it is more important than ever for college students to recognize that they must push themselves in the direction of literacy. It is vital for students to make the time and effort to read books themselves.
For example, an editor said, “One of my professors had our class limit our technology use two hours after waking up and two hours before we went to sleep. I took this time to read and I felt much better about how I started and ended my day.”
The University librarians also make a great effort to promote reading and writing skills by offering assistance to students through their website, holding events such as story time for children (per our last issue), and holding research awards to praise student success in writing. The library sets an example for students by fostering an appreciation for the craft of reading and writing.
However, one editor voiced, “Maybe if students were assigned better books rather than just classics ‘just because,’ they would feel more inclined to read.”
Yes, perhaps higher ed institutions can do a better job at gearing reading material towards ones that students will enjoy. If a curriculum merely assigns canon material, or a collection of requisite texts, it may discourage students from reading for pleasure because it seems like a chore.
However, it ultimately comes down to the autonomy of the students. And many of them do not prioritize reading for pleasure.
Unfortunately, students will begin to feel the effects of a society that does not cherish leisure reading.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University