There was once a time when, particularly for high school students and teenagers, reading for pleasure was seen as an ‘uncool’ hobby and one that was looked upon as the ‘ugly duckling’ of extra-curricular activities. Students only read books that were assigned to them and those that read more at home found themselves hiding their latest novel under their pillow whenever they got a visit from a friend.
Last week I surveyed a group of six higher education students, all of whom spoke a different mother tongue, and who were all of different age groups. Not one of them read for pleasure. The most reading any of them did was through the text book from which they were studying, or through the free newspaper that they collected on the bus on the way to work.
The idea that reading is no longer pleasurable is simply not acceptable to me, a keen reader, or acceptable to many other writers and novelists who spend their time striving to write prose that will be pleasurable to those that happen upon it. Reading should be pleasurable for all those who have a comfortable arm chair and a glass of wine, because what could be more relaxing after a long day at work than getting stuck into a good book?
Luckily, despite the surprising responses I got last week, a report from Pew Research has found that adolescents and those in their early to mid-twenties actually read more than some of their elders. The report shows that those who have grown up since the new millennium get more pleasure from a good book than those aged 30 or older.
In fact, this survey, which concentrated on Americans between the ages of 16 to 29, showed that 88 percent of those surveyed have read at least one book in the last year, and the median number was actually 10. Comparatively, only 79 percent of people 30 have read at least one book in the last year, showing that the younger generation is definitely getting back into the idea that reading can be fun, and not just for study.
Around 43 percent of those categorised at ‘millennials’, or those who grew up in the new millennium, told Pew Research that they read books on a daily basis, a percentage that is considerably higher than those aged 30 or above who read books every day. Those that treasure reading as a valued part of their day are becoming a larger percentage of the population, leading us to believe with some hope that reading is coming full circle, and instead of being the black sheep of hobbies, it will instead be a cherished activity that people will save parts of their day for. Writers and readers alike will benefit from this change in trends, as more readers means more books to write, and more books written means more choice for readers.