NEW YORK—For Kenneth Santos, a biochemistry major at SUNY–Geneseo, reading outdoors in the summer gives him a chance to enjoy his favorite books, instead of getting constantly distracted by electronic devices.
“When I am inside, I feel like ‘Oh, why should I read this print book, when I can just do something on the Internet,'” Santos said. Going outside with a book in hand allows him to focus on just reading.
“Especially since in the sunlight, you can’t see anything on your screen,” he added. His favorite literary genre is magical realism, especially by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.
Santos found a shady reprieve for reading at the plaza in front of the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main 42nd Street branch on Tuesday, where the library has set up an outdoor reading room until Aug. 15.
The library arranged two long, wooden reading tables, seating up to 50 people. A stack of staff-recommended books was also provided for people to browse through and read on-site. Weather permitting, the reading room will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
The initiative is part of the NYPL’s overall goal of getting more people to read, said Lynn Lobash, manager of readers’ services.
Reading is Fun
Reading has great benefits to people and to society, “whether it’s gaining empathy for other people and other places, learning something new, or just sitting quietly with a book,” Lobash said. The outdoor reading room is a way to show people very openly how enjoyable reading can be.
New Yorkers have indeed been reading more. Lobash said circulation at the NYPL has increased by 9 million since 2005.
NYPL especially tries to encourage children to read over the summer so they don’t forget what they’ve learned in school. Lobash said experts recommend reading at least 20 minutes a day in order to retain the same learning level upon returning to school.
The NYPL hosts summer reading events at branches across the city. Its Summer Reading Challenge also awards prizes to children who finish reading a certain number of books. “We want it to be reading for pleasure, so that it’s not a struggle,” Lobash said.
On social media, the NYPL is also inviting New Yorkers to upload photos of themselves at their favorite reading spots. Famous authors like Judy Blume and Neil Gaiman are expected to take part.
Additional reporting by Benjamin Chasteen
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the hours and dates of NYPL’s outdoor reading room. It is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until Aug. 15. Epoch Times regrets the error.