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Do college students actually read?

By Zachary Kaplove
On November 1, 2012

  • In this Sept. 23, 2009 file photo, students study in the Homer Babbidge Library. Even with the existence of SparkNotes, a Pew Research Institute study says college students are taking the time to read full texts. FILE PHOTO/The Daily Campus

It might be disconcerting to know that the greatest literary classics are so often channeled to students in abridged or watered-down formats via websites such as and This fact alone may seem to lead to the conclusion that college students are not reading the entire novel, but the Pew Research Institute tells another story.
According to a recent report, college students are reading very often despite the high frequency of SparkNotes use. The study reveals that 88 percent of college students have read at least one book in the past year - a remarkably high number, especially in an era dominated by digital media. The percentage of college students who have used the library in the past 12 months to checkout a book is comparable to the preceding statistic, leading to the conclusion that young Americans do enjoy reading for purposes other than those that are school-related.
Peter Restrepo a junior at the University of Virginia, said that with such high volumes of reading for classes, there is simply little time to read for pleasure. Many students have a similar outlook and believe that reading for oneself is simply too low of a priority. Many students considering catching up on the news and current events to be the second most important contact with reading following textbook reading.
Jessica Moyer, an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, said "The lifelong learning skills that it [reading] develops are one of the best ways to continue learning after formal education."
It has also been seen through experimental evidence that reading is not often picked up in adulthood - the best readers are avid readers who start as young children and always stick with it.
Studies conducted by the Pearson Foundation revealed that students prefer digital over print reading for most types of reading. A quarter of college students now own a tablet (iPad, Kindle, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.), which could indicate that the statistic for students who use the library could potentially be under representative due to the library being less of a necessity in terms of access to literature.
Although the amount of contact that students have with printed text may be decreasing, general interest in reading has remained strong despite new means of accessing literature.

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