Reading deeply---and widely---has long been a feature of a university education. Though a variety of assigned reading is still essential to earn of a degree, recent studies published by the National Endowment for the Arts show a decline in the amount of time people spend reading in America.
Dr. Patricia Greenfield, professor of psychology and director of the UCLA Children's Digital Media Center reports that reading habits among young people have declined in recent decades. In UCLA Newsroom she states, "Studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary. Reading for pleasure is the key to developing these skills. Students today have more visual literacy and less print literacy. Many students do not read for pleasure and have not for decades."
A Paradigm Shift?
According to Dr. Greenfield, technology's influence may have had a negative effect on reading and critical thinking. In UCLA Newsroom, Dr. Greenfield states, "Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent decades, enhances thinking and engages the imagination in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not."
A preliminary study was conducted by Dr. Eric Simon at Fordham University that investigated the use of E-Readers in the classroom. As he explains in the Sept. 2001 edition of "Syllabus," "The student volunteers who used an e-book for a semester in my introductory science course were clearly pleased with the experience and wanted more. They indicated that they wished more courses incorporated this new medium and that such inclusion could affect their course choice."
Reading at Risk?
The 2004 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) survey, "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America," reveals that reading in America is becoming less common and suggests that action needs to be taken to encourage people to read. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia stated "This report documents a national crisis. Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy. To lose this human capacity--and all the diverse benefits it fosters--impoverishes both cultural and civic life." The article reports that "the rate of decline for the youngest adults, those aged 18 to 24, was 55 percent greater than that of the total adult population."
Electronic Readers (E-Readers) allow students to download thousands of books (including textbooks) with ease, eliminating the need for traditional books that historically characterized the university experience. Whether or not the advent of E-Readers increases the reading habits among university students is likely to be the continued subject of studies.
- Photo Credit The book image by Dzmitry Halavach from Fotolia.com
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