Shoutout to past Shar for writing this on a long bus ride and saving present Shar, ensured in the business of the last week of semester, to still post on time. Love you, past Shar! ❤ ❤
I’ve had several conversations recently with people saying that they used to like reading but didn’t anymore, or didn’t know how I read so much (when really I’ve been reading way less than I used to since starting uni), or the ‘I literally haven’t read a book since I was 10’. I don’t understand it, because this obviously isn’t me, but building on Shanti’s discussion the other day, and some comments from Maraia, I’ve been thinking about how to reconcile the fact that I love reading and still do it despite being a very busy student with the fact that I’m in a minority.
I should look up some stats, but in my experience lots of people read a lot in primary school, maybe less in intermediate and high school, and often stop or do a lot less in university. The books people do read tend to be more nonfiction and intellectual, which is great if you actually enjoy it, but I feel like a lot of people don’t?? And often people read thes kinds of books very slowly; I rarely see my friends who tell me they read with book (do they just hide them in their room? More on carrying books around in a post to come.) This also evokes discussions about whether reading quantity is better than quality, but I will say that if you’re only reading one very intellectual book every six months, maybe you should go for something more enjoyable instead.
To be honest, I feel a bit of moral superiority as a reader, like I’m just a bit better than people who watch movies or scroll through Facebook or just socialize for fun (Although I have been doing a lot of socializing recently and a lot less reading) because I’m an extravert and I live with 180 people my age and see people my age all the time in classes).
But the question is, why do people stop reading in university? I’ve theorized a few reasons:
- Access Or rather, lack of it. High school and primary school libraries tend to have actual fun books as well as some for research, but university libraries (at least at my university) have almost nothing you’d actually want to read for fun. Maybe a few English texts but basically no.
- Promotion or rather, lack of it. In primary school, children are encouraged to read and take books home and given reading diaries and reading homework and taken to the library and told to read by librarians. The older we get, the less this happens. In my first year of high school, my English teacher made us spend 20 minutes a week reading. In subsequent years, we were told that reading for fun would help us do better in standardized tests and our classes, even if we weren’t give time explicitly for it. In uni (maybe this is different for English majors/BAs? But I haven’t been told to read for fun in the arts paper I do take) the number of people in your life encouraging you to read dramatically drops.
- Role models or rather, not enough. Of course I know some people read, and you do occasionally see people wandering past with a paperback, but nobody is reading for fun so you don’t do it either. If more people read, then more people would read as they all recommended books to each other and such.
- Time or rather, not enough. This is a fairly basic one: even more than in high school, university students are busy with assignments and lectures and socializing and work and trying to get excersise and going out and drinking.I don’t think this is an excuse for doing NO reading—we seem to find the time for other frivolities that aren’t a necessary part of the schedule, though of course everybody needs a bit of free time where they don’t feel like they have to do something—but it’s a good excuse for doing less.
- Expectations Lots of my lecturers recommend/expect that we read all these extra things, and I think lots of us feel that now we’re intellectual students, we should read dense, intelligent things more than novels. A lot of my friends do read things like Sapiens, or classics or books about politics but I often get the sense that they’re not really enjoying them. And when your politics lecturer is always refurring to things you don’t understand, or your history lecturer is saying ‘I’m sure you’ve heard of ___ event and you haven’t, we start to worry that we’re reading the wrong things, and wishing to engagie in more intellectual reading.
- Knowing what to read or rather, not. I think lots of people don’t realise that there are books they can actually enjoy that aren’t trashy and feature characters and themes that are actually relevant to their lives. This is what YA and NA is and university students need it.
I think university students stop reading because they’re busy, but also because less people are telling them to read and it’s harder for them to access books (not impossible, but not in front of their noses either). We don’t see our friends reading and feel overwhelmed by the very not fun academic stuff we do have to read. Once people stop reading for fun, it’s hard to get back to doing it, and because I think that reading is very valuable, this make me sad. Especially in first world countries, it’s totally possible for students to get good books, and I think reading for fun make you smarter and more compassionate and is very valuable. The question is how to help us read for fun.
Since you’re on this blog, I’m guessing you read for fun. So, are you in university? What do you think is stopping students (including those in high school) from reading like they did when they were younger? What do you think would help?