Freeloaders, text addicts, internet-obsessed millennials?
Sometimes it seems that other generations just can’t stop picking on the notorious Generation Y.
No generation is flawless, but some stereotypes may need some fact checking.
For instance, the stereotype that millennials don’t read.
A Pew Research Center study recently found that millennials are just as likely as older adults to have used a library or read a book in the last year.
In fact, 18-29-year-olds were the most likely of any age group to have read a book in the last year.
But what sets this generation apart as readers?
And what about readers here at Bob Jones University?
Several professors in the literature and journalism departments gave their insights on what they have observed about the millennial generation in the classroom.
“I really think that students read as much, if not more, than they ever have,” said Betty Solomon, a journalism and mass communication professor at BJU.
“It is not that millennials are not reading; they just read for a different purpose.”
She calls them “functional readers,” people who read looking for the answers to their questions and who search until a headline catches their eye.
In the media world now, the internet has helped people learn about news from around the world in a more accessible format.
However, Solomon pointed out that this is still a generation of readers and gave the example of the Harry Potter series.
“It spurred this generation to read more fiction,” she said.
A 2015 study by the National Endowment for the Arts supported Solomon’s point.
They found that not only do U.S. millennials read, but older millennials by percentage are the second most avid readers of any age group in the United States.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of studies online,” said Dr. Bruce Rose, chair of the Division of English Language and Literature.
Rose is concerned that students are just skimming the surface of literature, however, and not engaging in deep reading, which is dangerous when students go to read Scripture and only engage the text on the surface instead of from a deep literary analysis.
“I really think that students’ reading choices are so culturally driven today, much more so than people in the past,” said Dr. Rhonda Galloway, a professor in the Division of English Language and Literature.
Galloway also enjoys connecting with her students in her classes on the popular young adult series but is concerned that students will not go further into the classics of literature.
“Our students do read, but they are more information driven in their reading rather than digging into a book for the value of the book itself,” she said.
Galloway also said that our culture does not emphasize a depth of thought because that takes too much time.
BJU professors strive to cultivate that development of interpretation through the required literature classes, Galloway said.
Which, she said, is thinking about what a work of literature means.
Rather than evaluate the entertainment value of the literature, Galloway encourages her students to think about the value that the piece has for the individual, especially from a Christian perspective.
“Ask yourself: why do I believe what I believe?” Galloway said.
“How does that impact my education and thinking on cultural issues and the evaluation of the sermons that I hear? Christians need to think deeply. What we learn in our literature classes really helps us in life.”
Another professor in the Division of English Language and Literature, Dr. Brent McNeely, said he is thankful if the students read at all.
From there, someone can give the students an appreciation for more sophisticated literature.
“Some students tend to stick to one genre or two,” Dr. Brent McNeely said. “They have what they like, and that is fine.”
But he warns people about having an elitist attitude when it comes to reading.
Learning, he believes, can be accomplished in other ways, especially now as television shows are more sophisticated than ever, and people can encounter narrative in other forms.
So, why read?
“There is something in us that admires creativity,” McNeely said, “and that love of aesthetic beauty—God gave us that—it is neat to see how works are organized. But why does Finnegan’s Wake start in the middle? Why is Time’s Arrow written backwards? Some works aren’t organized, and it is fun to ask why.”