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What’s your pleasure? exploring the predictors of leisure reading for fiction and nonfiction


Leisure reading is associated with several important educational and cognitive benefits, and yet fewer and fewer young adults are reading in their free time. To better study what drives leisure reading in undergraduates, we developed the Predictors of Leisure Reading (PoLR) scale. The PoLR investigates key predictors of leisure reading, namely reading motivations, obstacles, attitudes, and interests. We examined the PoLR’s ability to predict language skills in 200 undergraduates, both directly and indirectly via exposure to fiction and nonfiction texts. Language skills were measured with a diverse battery of tasks, including items from two sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. We found that reading enjoyment predicts better verbal abilities, and this was often explained via exposure to fiction rather than nonfiction. In contrast, participants who reported reading due to extrinsic pressures typically had weaker verbal abilities, often explained by stronger associations with nonfiction. This pattern was observed across the raw correlations and in a series of path analyses. In sum, it was ‘reading enjoyment’ and ‘identifying as a reader’ that uniquely predicted better verbal abilities in our undergraduate sample. The importance of these findings is discussed in relation to fostering reading enjoyment throughout the various stages of formal education.

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  1. These include measures of need for cognition, empathy, need to belong, personality traits, need for affect, and devices used for reading. Detail and data are available upon request.


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This research was funded by a Grant to RM from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (#435-2012-1420). We thank Colin Decker (University of Toronto) for his assistance with some of the statistical analyses.

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Correspondence to Sandra Martin-Chang.

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Martin-Chang, S., Kozak, S., Levesque, K.C. et al. What’s your pleasure? exploring the predictors of leisure reading for fiction and nonfiction. Read Writ 34, 1387–1414 (2021).

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