Why Readers Read

April 2010
by Beth Luey

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Why Readers Read

by Beth Luey

Reading is a mystery. Sales figures, opinion polls, and library circulation statistics collectively tell us something about who reads and what they read, but they shed little light on why people read or what they experience as they read.

Theories abound, offered by disciplines ranging from literary theory to clinical psychology, each supported by credible evidence and most consistent with all the others; but none of them really answers these central questions.

The mystery has many sources. Reading is not a single, straightforward act but rather a variety of very different activities, each with its own motivation and rewards.

Reading may be compulsive, compulsory, mesmerizing, boring, exciting, relaxing, inspiring, depressing, or matter-of-fact and devoid of emotional content—all in the course of a single day for a single reader.

All in a Day’s Reading

You get up early one morning, and the paper hasn’t arrived, so you read the cereal box and the milk carton, an experience without intellectual or emotional content, bordering on the compulsive.

Later you read the newspaper and experience a range of emotions: anger on the…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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