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Bring back the bookworms

Reading for fun is at risk for ASU students

 by Celeste Sepessy
 published on Thursday, September 7, 2006

As reading assignments pile up during the school year, students say they donít have enough time to read for fun anymore. What happened to the good old days of bedtime stories and summer reading clubs at the library?/issues/arts/697530
Joseph Mannino / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
As reading assignments pile up during the school year, students say they donít have enough time to read for fun anymore. What happened to the good old days of bedtime stories and summer reading clubs at the library?
 

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College students don't have time to read for fun.

They can barely finish the 4,314 pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin or peruse the mundane pages of a plant-biology textbook, let alone have time for pleasure reading.

According to the National Endowment of the Arts "Reading at Risk" survey, the number of young readers is dropping. And for those who do read, the amount they are reading is dropping as well.

The survey says that the number of literary readers in the 18-to-24 age group has decreased from 17.8 million in 1982 to 11.4 million in 2002. This is a 35.7 percent decrease in young adult readers over 20 years.

According to the NEA survey, the decline in reading correlates with society's "increased participation" with electronic media like the Internet and video games.

Global studies sophomore Brianna Chan has noticed the shift to reliance upon electronic media.

"This age group is the one that's been exposed to the extreme increase in other forms of media," Chan says. "Other forms of entertainment are more instantly gratifying and require less effort."

Music senior Jessie Polin agrees, saying an emphasis isn't put on reading for pleasure anymore.

Similarly, anthropology and theatre junior Eva Wingren says she thinks people choose electronic media instead of reading to keep them entertained.

"I hear lots of people say 'I never read.' Video games and computers suck up so much of our time," she says.

Chan, Polin and Wingren say they try to read as much non-school-related material as they can, but they agree it can be extremely difficult with intense class loads.

English literature senior Jason Kasting says he never reads his own material during the school year.

"I read enough novels for class as is," he says.

But during summer and winter breaks, literature lovers tend to make up for their lack of reading for pleasure during the school year.

"I look forward to breaks for that reason," Kasting says.

Changing Hands Bookstore employee Kyle Hague says he thinks society doesn't value reading like it used to. That's why Changing Hands started Page 23, a program aimed at eradicating the decline of young readers at a local level.

Hague, who is the book buyer for Page 23, says with the help of young employees, he hopes to boost the number of young adults who are reading.

"A lot of owners of independent bookstores are getting older," Hague says. "They're not supporting books from younger authors, and they don't know what appeals to younger readers."

Hague, in efforts to alleviate this, is ordering not only more books by younger authors, but also a wider variety of books. Changing Hands features the Page 23 picks on a table in the middle of the store.

"You usually see a lot of the younger people reading the same things - the beat stuff, Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Robbins, McSweeney's authors," Hague says. "That's why I order a lot of different stuff."

In addition, Page 23 tries to get younger audiences more involved in the literary movement by hosting book readings by authors that the 18-to-30 age group enjoys.

So far Changing Hands has held readings by authors Christopher Moore, Chuck Klosterman and up-and-coming author Salvador Plascencia.

"Were trying to bring in specific authors to try and get people more excited about reading," Hague says.

Incorporating young people into the Changing Hands clientele is a strong priority amongst the staff.

"In our mission statement we call ourselves a community bookstore," Hague says. "People who read more are more active in their community," Hague adds. "We have to create our customers for the future."

Reach the reporter at celeste.sepessy@asu.edu.



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