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Academic reading: Reading for pleasure

Reading for pleasure

When asked about how they feel about reading, many students answer that they find it boring, difficult or useless. If these are the answers you would give, we hope we can change your mind by the end of this page. 

While most of this guide has focused on how to become a more efficient reader in order to help you deal with the large amounts of reading that you need to do for your studies, we will now consider reading for pleasure. Yes, reading can, in fact, be an enjoyable activity that is also incredibly useful

Two types of reading

Think about the reading you do throughout the day. If we ignore reading with a very specific purpose, such as reading a recipe, a timetable or a brochure, there are probably two types of reading that you do: intensive and extensive. These were already discussed earlier in Module 3.

Intensive reading is the kind of reading you do to learn relatively large amounts of rather specific information from them, for example for your studies. You often did not choose to read them; your instructor assigned this reading to you. These texts are generally very detailed and information-dense and this makes them somewhat difficult to read.

Extensive reading is the kind of reading you generally do outside class, because you enjoy it or out of interest. The texts you read extensively are generally fairly easy to read because they are not as dense in information and details or because it is not important for you to understand all of it in detail. They tend to be longer as well; compare, for example, a novel you might read for fun and a journal article you were assigned as coursework. Extensive reading is also useful in training yourself to read faster and understand more. Most importantly, you chose the text you read yourself because you were interested, curious or familiar with the author’s previous work. This makes that extensive reading is often experienced as more enjoyable than intensive reading. 

How reading for pleasure helps

Reading for pleasure is an excellent way to develop your general reading skills. First, it helps you become a more fluent and a faster reader. Simply because you read more and more often, you practice all of the skills discussed on the previous two pages in this module, and with that, you become better at understanding texts in a shorter amount of time. Reading in your free time will increase your motivation to read as well. You get to choose which texts you read and even if you read because you have to, e.g. for your studies, the task does not seem all that daunting anymore as a result of you becoming more confident about your reading skills.

There are other benefits, too. Reading for pleasure is an excellent way to increase your vocabulary without all that much effort. Even if you forego compiling a vocabulary notebook (as described on the Increasing your vocabulary page), simply by encountering words, phrases, and chunks frequently they ‘stick’ better. This in turn will increase the easy with which you read texts. As you read more and more, you will also be able to use the vocabulary, grammar, and style that you encounter in these texts in your own writing, improving the quality of your written work. Seeing this progress in your language learning will make the process of mastering a language more enjoyable and rewarding as well. Through reading, you also learn more about the world in general. There is evidence that people who read in their free time perform better at academic tasks, enjoy learning more and score higher on tests. Actually, there is some evidence that reading makes you smarter. Reading for pleasure, in combination with the training of other related skills, leads to better performance on various reasoning tasks like the ones done in an IQ test.

Getting motivated to read

Now that you know why reading for pleasure is such a useful activity, let’s try to get you motivated to read. 

There is really only one criterion when it comes to choosing something to read, and that is interest. Choose texts, preferably longer ones, such as books, that you think you will find interesting. There is no point in starting to read a book if you have no desire to actually start reading it. In addition, don’t hesitate to stop reading a book if it didn’t work out. You are reading for your pleasure, so if a book doesn’t tickle your fancy after a few pages – or a few chapters for that matter – consider the time you’ve spent on it so far as time well spent for all of the reasons given earlier and focus on finding a new book to read.

Social reading

Reading is often seen as an activity you do alone, but it needn’t be so. Sharing with others may be another way to motivate you to read. In this digital age, there is a myriad of ways to share your reading experiences with others, whether they are people you know or strangers. An excellent way to help you decide what to read next is Goodreads. On this website, you can keep track of what you have read, leave reviews of the books you have read, read other users’ reviews, and find suggestions from GoodReads for new books you might enjoy. Social media may also provide a platform for finding new books to read or to share your own reading experiences with others. Follow Instagram accounts where users recommend books or join a subreddit for book suggestions or one about a book you’ve read (for example, this one about the Game of Thrones series). There is even a social media app that exclusively targets book readers, Litsy

So go read a book!