Recreational Reading…What’s That?

Reading seems to be a dying pastime…that is, when it comes to reading actual books. The reading rate of teenagers has drastically dropped in recent years, and it has some professionals concerned about the future.

According to Charlotte Alter of Time Magazine, data gathered from a survey in 1984 stated that 64% of teens would read for enjoyment once or twice a week. Many people are comparing this data to a recent study done by Common Sense Media in 2014, which showed that 45% of teenagers said that they read for enjoyment about once or twice a year. But is the drop in reading really that severe?

I spoke with AVHS English teacher and reading specialist Dr. Scott Voss, to see what his view is on this matter. When asked why he thought reading among teens has gone down in recent years, he contradicted it, saying that in a way it really hasn’t.

“There’s this fear that adolescents are not reading, but my general argument is that that’s probably not entirely true,” said Voss. “The Pew Center for Research reveals that when compared across various generations, adolescents today read more than other generations.”

There’s this fear that adolescents are not reading, but my general argument is that that’s probably not entirely true.”

— Scott Voss

According to the article, young adults are more likely than their elders to have read a book in the last year. Dr. Voss brought up the interesting idea that teens in fact are reading today, but our definition of what reading is has changed. From video games to text messages, reading is happening–it’s just not necessarily a book that teens are picking up.

Teens today seem to be reading more than they even realize; it just may not be the traditional reading that many are used to. But, is what teens are reading enough?

“No,” said Voss. “I don’t think that the text we are reading on screens and in video games is necessarily making us better readers of novels.”

What also comes into question is this:  if there is a drop in the reading of books among teens, what’s causing it?

Many are concluding that the so-called drop is due to the increase of technology in society today. “I think part of why teenagers aren’t reading is that everybody is so busy with social media and keeping up with our social lives that we don’t have the time to read,” said AVHS junior Molly Gunderson. She went on to say that because so much reading is assigned in school, the last thing that most high schoolers want to do is read more when they get home.

Between homework and after-school activities, some teens find it impossible to get enough sleep, let alone enough time to sit down and read simply for enjoyment. Even if they do have time, they often find themselves wanting to take a nap or watch their favorite show on Netflix, but the thought of diving into a juicy novel probably never even crosses their minds.

Junior Casey Dudley relates to this common struggle: “Yeah it’s really difficult to find time to read because right after school I go to practice, and then I go to work. By the time I get done with work, it’s usually really late and the last thing I want to do is my homework, let alone read a book.”

Bear in mind, once again, that not all teenagers turn away from reading; in fact, there are some who love it. Seniors Emily Cloud and Allie Dallman, founders of the AVHS Book Club, may have views that are atypical of other teens.

“Nowadays, I think teens lack patience and some things pertaining to education turns them off,” said Cloud. “Electronic devices such as TV and phones are great resources of entertainment, but our generation is so consumed in it that we can’t put it down.”

If you love to read, you will find time to read for a few minutes or so.”

— Allie Dallmann

The excuse that most teens give for not reading is that they are too busy, which isn’t a lie, but after speaking with multiple high school students I have found that it is really a matter of choice.

“I just find time,” said Allie Dallman. “If you love to read, you will find time to read for a few minutes or so.”

Although some teens aren’t reading actual books for enjoyment, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t reading at all. I suppose at the end of the day, all we can hope for is that teens are reading something, rather than nothing.