Should You Read for Education or Pleasure?

If you’re struggling to develop a steady reading habit, deciding where to start is tough.

Do you enjoy reading?

Be honest. It’s okay to say no.

As a bookworm, it wounds me to say this, but The Washington Post wrote about how leisure reading in the US is at an all time low. In fact, according to the 2018 American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19% of Americans read for pleasure.

Back in 2004, roughly 28% of Americans age 15 and older were reading for the fun of it.

There’s no judgment if you don’t enjoy reading; you’d just be part of the 81% majority who don’t read for pleasure.

These statistics are specific to the US, but it’s no stretch of the imagination to see these trends happening all across the world with the way the publishing industry is struggling.

Whichever side of the spectrum you’re on, if you do want to read more, you might debate between if you should read for education or for pleasure.

You might feel like it’s just easier to watch a movie or a TV series if you’re seeking entertainment, but there are endless fantastic stories out there that never make it to the big screen. This is especially true if your favorite genres aren’t exactly mainstream.

If you feel like you should read more — whether it’s internal or external pressure that’s being put on you — there are ways to make the goal seem less daunting. Alternatively, if you need to read more for work or for school, then it’d be a wise idea to work on your reading habits.

Changing the way you approach reading is key to enjoying the activity more.

If you struggle to enjoy reading, try reading for pleasure.

Not everyone is an avid bookworm. And that’s okay!

It is a good idea to read more, but if you struggle with that, you need to make it fun.

If you dread reading, reading something educational might not be the best gateway into the world of literature.

Think about what your favorite movie or TV genre is and explore books of the same genre. This is a great starting point to get more comfortable with reading regularly.

The UK Reading Agency is always keeping an eye out for new studies on why reading for pleasure is important. If you’re on the fence about whether it’s worth your time, here are a few reasons why reading for fun is beneficial.

“The relationship between reading for pleasure and wellbeing is particularly interesting, with evidence showing a correlation between reading for pleasure regularly and lower levels of stress and depression.”

Laura Venning, Impact and Evaluation Research Manager at The Reading Agency

Once you’ve established a steady reading habit, out a few educational pieces.

Start with things that interest you. Just because that one brilliant friend of yours recommended a book about the Byzantine Empire to you doesn’t mean that book is going to really interest you. It could be an absolutely fantastic book with an interesting, nuanced look at history, but if you’re not interested in that topic and you’re not a regular reader, that’s setting yourself up for failure.

Once you feel more comfortable with reading regularly, put aside your genre fiction for an educational book every once in a while. Jump back into your genre fiction afterward to give yourself a break before you go back to the educational books. It’s okay to take things slow.

Don’t marry the bestsellers list; find what you like.

Just because a book is popular — just because a book is good — doesn’t mean that you’re going to like it.

If you don’t like it, you’re not going to enjoy reading it.

I’m an avid reader, but I’ll be honest; I’ve read dozens of books that I acknowledged were good and well-written, but I didn’t like them. I can realize that they’re solid books, but if the genre or characters just aren’t my favorites, then I’m not going to be able to get immersed in it.

This is especially true with educational books. You’ve got to be legitimately interested in the subject or author to enjoy them.

At risk of this seeming like contradictory advice, one of the more educational books that I recently picked up is Becoming by Michelle Obama. I was always very interested in her activities during President Obama’s administration, so I’m rather curious to hear her take on things and more about her life beyond her years as the First Lady. While this is a bestseller, I enjoy books with a spin of female empowerment, so I’m rather confident that I’ll enjoy it.

Find the reading format that works best for you.

While you shouldn’t marry the bestsellers recommendations, you should try to take a break with your paperback addiction.

First of all, I know.

Physical books are divine. Ebooks feel uncomfortable at first. Audiobooks are weird sometimes.

But hear me out; you just can’t read a physical book, as absolutely darling as they are, as easily as you can read an ebook or listen to an audiobook.

Audiobooks are incredibly versatile and they’re one of my favorite ways to maximize the time I spend commuting. I listen while I’m doing my four miles of walking every day and when I’m on the train if I don’t feel like writing.

You can listen when you walk, when you grocery shop, or when you’re driving. If you’re struggling with reading an educational book, try listening to it. The easier accessibility makes reading more like a soundtrack to your life rather than an activity that takes dedicated time and effort.

That slightly different approach makes all the difference.

Writer and poet from Neptune. Instructional designer in NYC. Grad student at @NYUTandon studying Integrated Digital Media.

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