COLLEGE students lead notoriously busy lives.
Only students who successfully budget their time between class
work, extracurricular activities, and their social lives survive
the rigors of the nation's top academic institutions. And even
these masters of time management often neglect basic necessities
like eating and sleeping.
In recent years, deans and professors have observed, with no
small alarm, the decline of one of the most important aspects of
student life, reading for pleasure. Unfortunately, with increasing
demands on student time, recreational reading seems to be more a
luxury than an integral part of the college experience.
Addressing this concern, a group of educators, booksellers, and
publishers have created a program to resurrect recreational reading
on college campuses. The program, called Think-Read, began as a
publicity campaign aimed at students seeking enjoyable books to
supplement their textbook readings.
Organizers have recently begun to expand Think-Read into a
national program celebrating the important relationship between
pleasure reading and academic life.
This month, Brown University introduced its Think-Read project
to the Providence, R.I. community. (See reading list.) The Auraria
Book Center in Denver is currently putting the finishing touches on
its own program. Both are test projects for the National
Association of College Stores (NACS), which hopes to promote
Think-Read at a national level.
Think-Read was created in 1993 by Peter Gold, assistant dean of
the undergraduate college at SUNY Buffalo, in response to some
disheartening observations about student reading habits.
"For several years as a faculty member here, I had been
continually concerned with how little students were reading," Mr.
Gold says. "They often had no sense of reading except as a chore."
After several failed attempts to encourage extracurricular
reading on campus, Mr. Gold issued an informal survey to
professors, librarians, advisors, and administrators asking the
questions, "What have you enjoyed reading? What books have been
important to you, as a scholar and a person?"
The result of the survey is "The Undergraduate College List of
Unrequired Reading... a September Welcome Gift to New and Returning
Undergraduates." There are 48 titles on the list, one book a month
for a four-year undergraduate career.
This original Think-Read list includes books as diverse as Mark
Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Charles Darwin's
"Voyage of the Beagle," and Rombauer and Becker's, "The Joy of
The list was advertised on posters, bookmarks, and pamphlets
distributed throughout the campus. "We wanted to surround students
with the list," Gold says.
"Bookstores around here stocked the books," he adds. "We are
told that the program was successful enough that some stores are
still showing the posters."
The program was also successful enough to attract the attention
of the NACS large-store group, another organization concerned with
the role of the general book in students' lives.
Two members of that group, Gretchen Minney, director of Auraria
Book Center, serving three institutions of higher learning in the
Denver area, and Larry Carr, director of The Brown Bookstore in
Providence, volunteered their businesses for the national program's
first run. …