Why don’t we read for fun?

Photo by Eleya Raim

by Adrienne Derstine – Horizon Guest Writer

Approach any Hesston College student and ask them what they are reading. Chances are it won’t be the latest New York Times bestseller.

But Hesston students aren’t alone. Over the past decade the young adult population has abandoned reading for other forms of enjoyment. 

The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) 2004 study expresses concern for quality of reading on top of quantity being read among young Americans. It is estimated that only 1/3 of 17 year olds are experienced readers. The same study shows that those who read daily are able to perform better in all subjects of school, especially reading and writing. The NEA found that between 1984 and 2004, young adults in America went from most likely to read literature, to least likely.

In 2014 the Pew Research Center completed a survey revealing that only 43% of young adults read daily.

Hesston College professors say it is evident that students know how much they need to read, and they rarely do more than necessary. However, the benefits, they say, are incredible. 

English Professor Donovan Tann suggests that the greatest benefit is the open invitation to “think outside of our own experiences and encounter more of our world.”

Similarly, Marissa King, Professor of education and English notes that reading a great variety of works makes us more aware and relevant to our world.

“Successful people in many different fields read veraciously.”

That may be, but for most Hesston students, like freshman Rachel Shenk, there’s a roadblock.

“I don’t have time.” said Shenk

Shenk’s response is echoed by others who say they have so many obligations that reading seems more of a hassle than a fun hobby.

Somewhere along the way, reading became an arduous task instead of an enjoyable one. 

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says reading goes being enjoyment. She suggests that reading for pleasure actually makes you happier. Her tips include choose reading material that interests you, not because it will make you smarter or provide use in the future.

“[W]hen I’m reading something good, I find the time” says Rubin. 

King, an avid reader, recommends keeping a list of recommended books and signing up for tasks that require reading.

Also, start thinking beyond books. King says social media like Twitter is a great way of following researchers or authors that you admire. From there, you can “click through” linked articles and research.

Basically, she says, as long as you are being challenged to cultivate critical thinking skills through your reading, it doesn’t matter if you are reading a textbook, a novel, or your Twitter feed.  

So how do we make time to read?

The Huffington Post article “How to Make Time to Read,” suggests:

  • always carry reading material with you
  • read before bed
  • set goals for yourself 

Blogger and educator John Murphy encourages readers to share what they are reading with peers and colleagues. When readers can share recommendations, others will be more likely to pursue interest in reading material. 

Tann suggests finding something that captures your attention and diving in. 

“Find a page-turner or a story that catches your attention and go for it,” he said.

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