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Leisure reading broadens student experience

By Emily O'Connor, Senior Staff Writer

Although many Miami students like to read for pleasure, most feel that their busy schedules and heavy coursework don't give them the time.

According to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), leisure reading enhances students' reading comprehension, vocabulary development, general knowledge and empathy for others. It has also been shown to increase self-confidence and motivate reading throughout students' lives.

A recent survey of 100 Miami students showed that 56 percent read for pleasure outside of their regular coursework.

Sixty percent said they don't feel there is enough time with their coursework for leisure reading. About 7 percent said there is enough time, and 32 percent said their free time varies from week to week.

The study, "Reading, Risk and Reality" conducted in 2011 by Julie Gilbert, an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, found 90 percent of college students read for pleasure outside of their coursework.

However, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published studies on student leisure reading that show a dramatic decline over the course of the past 20 years.

Betsy Woods, an English composition instructor, said she feels reading is important to everyone even if it's unrelated to coursework.

"Whether it's leisure reading or more challenging books, reading keeps people intellectually engaged," said Woods.

In the comments section of the survey, many said they are too busy or simply just don't like to read.

Sophomore Savannah Boerger said there isn't enough time in her schedule for leisure reading, but noted its benefits.

"I do believe leisure reading enhances overall creative thinking and allows students to become more curious and active in and out of the classroom," said Boerger.

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Boerger said she, like many other students, spends her time completing class assignments and has other outside commitments for clubs and activities.

Boerger, a zoology major, mentioned that she would consider reading if she had more time in her schedule.

Although many students claim they don't have time in their schedule to read, Woods said she believes the opposite.

"Most students don't have time, but then again, who does? Do professors and others in the workforce have more time to read than students?" said Woods. "Ultimately, it's a choice to make time to read."

Woods said she hopes her students enjoy reading and find the value in learning through their reading choices. She strongly admires the Dr. Seuss quote, "The more you read, the more things you will know."

"I believe in this quote. It's an undeniable truth," said Woods.

When sophomore Darren Wong isn't busy with his zoology major, he reads for an hour each day. He usually reads during the week while he has his lunch and dinners.

"I want to broaden my general knowledge so that my thoughts and opinions can be more well-informed," said Wong.

He usually gravitates toward non-fiction books because he likes to learn more about what's happening around the world. Wong said books related to art, science, history, anthropology, politics and psychology interest him most. Occasionally, Wong will pick up a classic fiction novel.

"Learning isn't just limited to what we study in the class," said Wong. "Reading for leisure is one of the best ways to broaden our knowledge and expose us to different thoughts and ideas."