On April 23, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized World Book Day. This event promotes a shared love for reading across all age groups and all over the globe through activities, festivals, and charities. As World Book Day approached, the Hopkins community reflected on their reading habits through an anonymous survey.
When asked about their favorite book genre, 13% of student participants said they favor reading fantasy novels, with another 13% voting in favor of fiction. These statistics stagger over the following categories such as dystopian, historical fiction, and mystery, with each of these options holding 3.7% of votes. Overall, students enjoy a wide variety of genres, even those neglected by the school’s curriculum.
Students also shared their preferences on reading paper books versus e-books. Many students prefer reading e-books over traditional books as they are both lighter to carry and more convenient. One student commented: “e-books aren’t heavy,” with another student echoing this idea by saying that “e-books are more portable.” As more and more Hopkins students have begun to write class notes digitally, reading cheaper and more convenient books has become a favorable option on the hill. However, the overwhelming majority of Hopkins students reported that reading paper books is still their method of choice. Many students said they appreciate the physical style of paper books; as one student reported, “I like the feeling of flipping through the pages.” Several students described paper books as more “satisfying.” As one respondent noted: “I can physically turn the pages and use fun bookmarks, and there’s nothing like planting the book on my finished reading shelf once I’m done.” Other students cited screens as a turnoff. Wrote one student, “I feel like I stare at screens too much, and they give me a headache anyway.”
As Hopkins students find time to read outside of the classroom, many revealed they had few opportunities to do so. One student reported they were too “preoccupied with school-related things” to read books for pleasure. Another student mentioned that “homework has made it so [they] have less time to read.” Reflecting these struggles, almost a quarter of students reported never reading outside of the classroom. Most students (37%) said they read about one to three hours per week outside of class, due to the amount of time that homework, extracurricular activities, and commuting to school demand. One respondent wrote, “If I want to read before going to sleep, it takes me well into the early hours of the morning and causes me to be very sleep-deprived.” The same student noted, “I stay up late and suffer the consequences.”
Respondents were also asked to list their favorite books both in and outside of school. The most popular school-assigned titles included “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, and “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. One student wrote that they loved “The Call of the Wild” because it was “hooking, philosophical, eloquently-written, and it had a wonderfully relatable storyline.” Another enjoyed the “morality controversy” of “Never Let Me Go.” One respondent wrote, simply, “What: ‘Sula.’ Why: Tony Morrison.” Outside of the classroom, results varied from “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid and “The Book Thief” to “The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America.” Further afield reading included “Fashion Design Course: Principles, Practice, and Techniques” and archiveofourown.org, which focuses on fandom/fanfiction.
A few students cited a positive correlation between school- and pleasure reading. One respondent wrote that school has “upgraded my tastes;” another noted that “my tenth-grade English teacher inspired me to read more!” One student reported that while they have “definitely been reading less” as a result of school, they don’t “enjoy reading any less! The library here is so much more interesting than my prior school’s.”