As reported by The River, Kingston University’s award-winning student newspaper, a recent survey found that four in 10 Kingston University students have read just three books in the past year. This finding is supported by an academic study in the US, where researchers found over 40 per cent of students at Gustavas Adolphus College spent less than an hour a week reading for leisure.
Here’s an extract of the The River report, including the views of a Kingston lecturer.
KU students would rather pick up “junk food” literature like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings than their course books or classic novels like To Kill a Mockingbird.
Professor Meg Jensen, KU English literature lecturer and author, said: “There is nothing wrong with reading Harry Potter if you are 12 or studying children’s literature or publishing.
“But it is the literary equivalent of junk food – processed, easily digestible with little nutritional value. It won’t do you or your brain any real good.”
Practice makes perfect
Prof Jensen warned students that they will never be able to deal with classics by the likes of Jane Austen and George Orwell unless they start upping their reading habits.
Prof Jensen said: “It is certainly true that today’s students, with many exceptions, read less than they used to do, and find more complex texts almost impossible to decipher.
“The trick is that reading, like any other discipline, gets better with practice, and if students don’t read much they won’t become better readers.”
Another piece in The River attributes this low level of reading to the fact that students are “far too busy”. Here are some of the reasons it suggests reading may be overlooked:
Expectations to multitask
Students are expected to join societies, go to lectures, drink copious amounts of beer and get laid every now and then. Not to forget all the homework. How are we supposed to have time for a copy of War and Peace when there is not enough time to call home to our parents, or get other stuff done in time?
Short attention span
Moreover, there’s Angry Birds and Facebook and picking fights with people on internet forums and loads of other stuff which is both fun and distraction at the same time. Let’s face it: thanks to the digital age, our attention span is not what it once was. Twitter has messed my brain up, as well as yours.
I was never as happy as when I was finishing off reading Trainspotting on the train to Camden or starting off readingThe Cement Garden under my parasol in Thailand. But it’s safe to say that those days are long gone. We are Londoners after all, students who are about to become professionals. We can’t afford to sit still.
Everyone was a student once
For nine-to-fivers it’s easy to look down their noses at us for not being cultured enough, but if they think back to their student years, I’m sure they will admit that they could not find the time for a good read either.
The astonishing world of literature will have to wait for a while yet. And no uppity better-than-everyone-else super snob can come and blame us for not reading enough books.
The Gustavus Adolphus College survey also identified “lack of time” as the biggest barrier in reading for pleasure, with students suggesting that instructors “lighten up on the workload” and set “less homework” in order to free up time for reading.