Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reading Questions

Is there a difference between why children read and why adults read?

Is there a difference between why adolescents read and why adults read?

If so, what are some differences?

Should there be a difference between why children/adolescents read and why adults read?

Why do you read?  Why did you read as a child?  As an adolescent?  Are those reasons different?  How do you feel about those differences?

If you're interested, I really enjoyed Caitlin Flanigan's exploration "What Girls Want" in The Atlantic, but I'm really curious about these questions in general.


  1. This is an incredibly complex question--unbelievably complex.

    As an adult, I read to get by in everyday life. I read menus, street signs, cell phone contracts (okay, not really, but I pretend) and so forth.

    I also read for professional growth--I must take in ideas and apply them in order to continue to improve in my professional life.

    Like a number of adults, I also read for pleasure/entertainment. But unlike a great number of adults, I read for personal growth and intellectual stimulation, which are forms of pleasure--to me--but not necessarily the escapist form that adults who read, say, Mary Higgins Clark are looking for.

    Adolescents read to get by in the world as well. They don't, however, generally read for professional (or educational growth), or at least not to the degree they need to, whether this is a fault of the educational system or of the parents.

    Because they can read street signs, they think they can "read" at the level they need to. They have no concept of higher order literacy.

    Some of them do read for purposes of entertainment, but it is almost always for escapism, and it is quite rare for them to read for personal growth or simply to encounter IDEAS.

    This is the sad truth: there are too many other ways to get information now; heavy-duty, concentrated reading is on its way out.

    This doesn't hold true for all adolescents, but it does accurately describe the trend, I think.

  2. When I think about why I've read books throughout various points of my life, there have always been two primary reasons:

    --to learn

    --to be entertained

    I think those were my reasons as a child, as an adolescent, and through various periods of adulthood.

  3. Pacifist Viking, I would agree with your comment. I'd been mulling my answers to these questions because somehow my childhood and adult reading feel different to me, but I think at bottom they are not. Reading to get by (street signs, etc.), reading for pleasure, and reading for learning would be my only real categories, and that goes for my whole life. I did an enormous amount of reading-for-learning as a child and adolescent, and the reading I did then for pleasure was always more about aesthetic pleasure than escapism. While I have less time now for reading for learning, I spend a lot of time reading for work, and my pleasure reading is pretty much the same as it always was.

    I suppose the work reading for me should almost get a new category entirely, as I am a copy editor and read a lot that's not for "professional development"--it's just my job. But I count that more as work itself, not real reading.