Reading for Pleasure is on the Decline for College Students

Sophomore Lauren Abbott takes some time to read a book in the Fine Arts Library on campus Oct. 11.


Between classes, campus becomes crowded with students rushing to their next destinations. The majority of them walk briskly with headphones in their ears, looking down at their cell phones. A bag filled with required school textbooks and leisure novels rests on the students’ shoulders. Although the stress of college, school work and extracurriculars can bog down students, most claim they still can delve into personal reading preferences on top of other tasks professors assign.

At public four-year in-state institutions, the average cost of required books and supplies is roughly $1200, according to a report by College Board. Novels that students read for pleasure are not included in this price.

The percentage of adults who read literature, novels, short stories, poems or plays not required for work or school, fell from 57 percent to 43 percent in 2015, according to a survey from National Endowment for the Arts. This is a substantial decrease in the percentage rate of adults who read literature for pleasure since NEA started tracking reading in 1982, according to another NEA survey of literary reading.

Literacy rates by age vary. The literacy rate for adults between 18 and 24 is about 42 percent, while the highest rate was among adults between 65 and 74, at approximately 49 percent, according to the NEA study.

Junior Lauren Abbott is a biology student with a heavy workload, she said. She has weekly chapter reading assignments for her biology and chemistry classes, and studies anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a week. She also works part time at Walgreens but still manages to read two to three romance novels every week, which is her favorite genre, she said.

Reading for pleasure was something Evan Wordlaw, recent UA alumnus and employee at Dickson Street Bookshop, did not have time to do when he was getting his master’s in English and philosophy, he said.

While in graduate school, Wordlaw read a lot of literary theories and primary sources– things that his professors assigned, he said. His research projects were determined by advisors’ interests, so he only had time to read brief articles on the internet, he said. Now, Wordlaw’s reading is much more directed and personal than it was in college, he said.

“Now that I have a job that doesn’t follow me home, my free time is actually free,” Wordlaw said.

English professor John Tabb Duval thinks that UA faculty, specifically those in the English department, should be reading for fun, but not all do, he said. He also wants to offer course structured like a book club for students to discuss their personal reading without the burden of assignments, he said.



(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.