Why are people reading less than they used to?

Michael Mallard, Editor

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In the golden age of iPhones and Netflix, it seems that high school students, and people in general, are now less inclined to read books. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of U.S. adults who read regularly has been gradually declining in recent years. At the time of the study, a typical American was 73% likely to have read a book than they were four years earlier, at 79%. 

Common Sense Media did a similar study in 2014 that focused specifically on reading habits in kids and teens. The results indicated that adolescents were less likely to read by their own volition now than ever before. Teenagers were also reported to read noticeably less than their younger counterparts. 22% of 13-year-olds said they hardly ever read for pleasure, while 27% of 17-year-olds gave the same statement. 

Common Sense Media’s study also showed a significant disparity in gender. 18% of boys said they read daily, almost half of the statistic for girls, at 30%. This could be because of the recent uptick in young adult novels featuring female characters, such as Katniss in The Hunger Games or Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars. Recent studies have also shown that boys are 19% more likely to play video games often than girls, which could distract the boys from reading.

Many people have suggested that electronics and social media have contributed to teens’ lack of interest in literature. The number of kids who do not read has tripled since 1984, reinforcing the idea that recent technology distracts many young people from books. 

Mrs. Jan Wilson, Brookwood’s former media specialist, gave her stance on the perceived slump in teen reading. “I think that overall, because students have access to more entertainment, such as video games, they might not read as often,” she said, “Reading stamina is also an issue because they don’t focus on one activity for very long.”

Another possible factor is the growing pressure for kids, especially high school students, to participate in numerous extracurricular activities and take multiple AP classes at once. With so many kids in high school doing so much to beat the fierce competition for college, they simply do not have time for reading.

To help bridge the growing gap between kids and books, experts have emphasized the importance of parents and teachers encouraging their children to read. Multiple studies have shown that kids whose parents read to them as children have better grades, longer attention spans, and stronger linguistic skills. Educators urge students and families that no one should underestimate the positive effect that reading can have on an individual.