Why Don’t Students Read for Fun?

June 27th, 2013

While summer vacation may be the perfect time to enjoy a new book, millions of college students appear to have little interaction with literature. Danny Heitman, writing in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, describes the dismal state of reading for pleasure among America’s youth. As a college writing professor, Heitman witnessed students’ apathy toward literature, with most students in his seminar course listing Harry Potter as the most recent book they read for fun.

In fact, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for fun. The problem, Heitman argues, is that a lack of reading stunts a student’s growth as a writer, and makes them more likely to make frequent grammatical errors, regardless of their intelligence. In order to solve the problem, he suggests, students have to want to read literature rather than simply be assigned more reading

But the importance of language in our national life requires that we engage it with commitment and passion-and passion is necessarily rooted in pleasure and personal choice. We’ll always need assigned reading in the classroom, but we must also tempt more young people to read because they want to, not because they have to.


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