By: Nancy Plaskett

April 17, 2019

I have been an avid reader my entire life. I continue to be a proud member of two book clubs, where I am challenged by my fellow readers to open my mind, learn about cultures (even the ugly aspects), and evolve my thinking about what is fair and just—and my responsibility to contribute to a better world.

So how come there isn’t more research about what kind of impact reading literature and participating in book clubs have on individuals and communities? Even with a decline since 2002, the 2017 NEA Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) report lists reading literature among the most common forms of arts & culture engagement out there: 52.7% of Americans report reading a book not for work or school in the past 12 months, and 41.8% report reading a novel.

Surely there is something to discover if we were to dig more deeply into why, and to what ends, people engage in reading. What are the motivations to read? What, if any, physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive benefits occur as a result of reading independently? And what about reading with a group, as in a book club? What does reading widely and wildly do to build empathy and perhaps encourage individuals or groups into civic action and service?

I’m so curious! What are your hypotheses, and what would you be interested to learn from new research on reading? Let me know.

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