My Generation and the Lost Art of Book Reading

I can almost imagine what I would say to myself if I told myself to read a Book. I would most likely give myself a surprised face and tell myself that I do read Books, considering I’ve read one within the past year. Or I would explain that I simply have too much on my hands, and then continue to drown in my phone, an endless ocean in which I can swim anywhere except towards the surface. Of course Books have been that ocean for me as well. I love nothing more than the feeling of loving a Book. It’s like a great movie that lasts as long as you want it to and doesn’t have beautiful actors, a musical score or any explosions fabricated to sell tickets. It’s simply a Book. The characters are who you imagine them to be, the music you hear is the sound of pages flying, and any explosions are only involved for the story, not for the big screen. The problem with Books is that nobody reads them. So I ask myself, why don’t people read? Is there something so terrible about Books that has lead the majority of my generation to scoff at the mentioning of reading them? No. Of course not. It is not the people, nor is it the Books, but it is everything else. If teenagers were not so ridiculously obsessed with not reading, then they would read. For example, ten out of ten times, a teenager would chose their phone over a Book. Not because they don’t want to read, but because they don’t want to give up what they would do besides reading. For a teenager, choosing a Book over a phone is like choosing a Honda over a Ferrari: teens would not want a Honda (Book) if they could have a Ferrari (phone).

A shocking report published by Charlotte Alter in Time Magazine details an incredibly terrible statistic: only 19% of 17-year-olds read for fun every day. That means that 81% do not. The eye opening percentages portray the problem with today’s society; the new generation has forgotten how to read. So why do majority of today’s teens not read for fun? Some argue that it is because high school is too demanding and students have too much homework in order to read Books. But another statistic in Alter’s report disagrees, “45% of 17-year-olds say they only read once or twice a year, but in 1984, 64% said they read once a week or more.” (Alter). The numbers make it clear that homework is not the problem, so what is? This statistic clearly has a correlation with the advancements in technology since 1984. In the past 30 years, society — and especially teenage society — has become addicted to everything ranging from the cell phone, to the laptop, to a video game. Teenagers have become submerged into the sea of screens. They swim deeper and deeper into their technologies. They always have something else to tap on, something else to explore, something else to get lost in.

The rise of screens signaled the fall of reading. Some argue that kids would continue to read on their devices, using e-books or a kindle. But that simply is not true. “In 2010, 66% of 9- to 17-year-olds said they were loyal to paper books over e-books.” (Alter).

So the majority of teens don’t read online, that is, out of those who read at all… It is an inversely proportional relationship; the increased use of technology decreased the use of Books. London’s National Literary Trust, through a survey of 17,000 U.K. children and teenagers, deduced that while 86% of 7- to 16-year-olds owned their own cell phone, only 73% of them said they owned a Book of their own. Not a single Book was owned by 27% of the surveyed people! The statistic is amplified by the fact that phones cost incredibly more than Books. A used Book can cost exponentially times less than a phone. So what does this lacking of books do a child? The same organization later studied the reading level of the students who own Books and the level of those who do not. 80% of students who own Books read at an expected level or higher, while a mere 58% of those who do not own a Book read at the same level. The evidence could not be more real. Books are necessary yet children and teenagers do not read them. The question is, how can an entire generation be convinced into reading?

An article published by The Atlantic details the events of the second annual “Chicago Ideas Week” where people like famous artists, billionaire CEO’s and young entrepreneurs met to share ideas. The article is specifically centered around the idea of paying kids to read and learn. Michael Sandel, a Harvard philosopher, asked his audience what they thought on the matter. A businessman then replied saying over a family vacation he offered his children $20 for each Book they read. By the end of the vacation they had read 15 Books each. Of course the story is not an extremely credible study, but if it worked for him, why should it not work for everyone else? Paying kids and teenagers to read would most certainly increase the amount of them that read. The problem with paying kids to read is that it is hard to do so on a large scale. It would only be effective if each family did so personally. To give a large amount of teens incentive to read Books it could not be money rewarded for reading, but instead another form of payment. Perhaps limiting screen time if a child did not read could help, but then the child would feel as if they were being forced to read instead of doing it voluntarily. That could in fact be detrimental to the Book reading of the child because they would consider it a chore. So penalizing someone for not reading would never result in them loving Books. That should be the goal. Get them to love Books and read them too. So the question rises once again, what incentive can we give a student to help them fall in love with Books? There are solutions.

As opposed to rewarding students with money for reading, rewarding them with something else can be equally effective, yet more realistic. Students will read Books if they can see a movie as well. A study published by Renaissance Learning shows the effects of a movie release on the amount of students reading the Book. A surprising jump in the reading of the hunger games occurred both after the movie trailer was released, and especially the movie itself. (Shown below)

A system in which students could see a movie if they read the Book would most likely be effective. Perhaps bringing your copy of the Book to a theater would grant you free entry to the film. Or maybe a school wide film showing that only those who read the Book get in for free. Movies can most certainly be a good bribe for students to read. Also, watching the movie of a Book you’ve read is a way to help students appreciate Books. A study made by LoveReading.co.uk clearly shows that Books are rated higher than movies is most cases. Perhaps the evidence itself is enough to make a student pick up a Book, instead of a film.

With that being said, movies are not the best solution because of issues involving money and organization. So, how can we convince students to read? Through school.

What do you think would happen if there was a class at school titled “Book Club”, in which students simply read books and then talked about them with others? The class could be optional, to ensure students do not feel forced to read. It could be a pass or fail class without a letter grade to relieve pressure and reduce stress. The students would simply come to class and read a Book. The importance of reading time to a high schooler is almost like nap time to a preschooler. In fact, students would think of it in the same way. Students would not be able to wait to get to their Book Club class. The class would even convince some students to read outside of the class. That would be the outcome and that is the goal. In order for students to love reading, all they have to do is pick up a Book.

In finality, the importance of Books is clear, and so is the lacking of them in today’s generation. So by experimenting with solutions inside and out of the classroom, we can help teenagers and children fall in love with reading again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to stop writing, and pick up a Book!

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