Teenagers and Reading

On occasion my friends raid my bookshelf and borrow four to five books at a time. I was walking home from one of said friend’s houses with a pile of books in my arms.  While walking home, I passed a man walking his dog. I said hello, the dog yipped and sniffed at me and the man just stared. He looked at his dog and said “Oh she’s carrying books! You don’t see that today.” [Yes, I’m retelling verbatim.] He then proceeded to mumble about how children these days don’t look up from their phones, and seeing me with an arm-load of books was a nice sight.

Now, I do not usually walk around public places with a ton of books. In school I usually only carry one, but it depends on the day. Usually, I’m that teen on my phone. Okay, maybe not since I don’t have a smart phone or anything. But I’m someone who fits into both categories. Just because you don’t normally see someone carrying a ton of books doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying a ton of books in their mind.

My point: Are teens actually reading less – or does it just appear to be that way?

I’ve heard it before. You have probably heard it before. That teenagers – or well, Americans in general – are reading less. I searched ‘teen reading statistics united states’ into Google and the first site [National Endowment for the Arts] that popped up says that 15-24  year olds spend “only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading” compared to the “two hours a day watching TV.”

Now I’m all for promoting literacy and all that, but I started questioning how true these statistics were. This week in school I carried around The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because it was so-fantastic-that-I-couldn’t-put-it-down and unfortunately because it was mid-term week, I had to put it down. During class, I had a conversation with one of my guy friends; it went like this:

Guy Friend: What are you reading?
Me: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It’s amazing.
Guy Friend: I know.
Me: …
Guy Friend: Yeah, I read it.
Me: You read it?!

And then I proceeded to squeal. I’ve known this kid for four years and I just found out that he reads outside of school. It shouldn’t have come as a shock to me, but it did. It was really cool finding out that he read YA books too. It was also cool that he’s a guy, because it’s harder to find a guy that reads YA books.

Now, teens are supposedly reading less. Maybe I’m just in denial, but maybe they really aren’t. Maybe the kids-that-are-reading ratio has been the same as the kids-that-don’t-read for a while. Maybe the statistics are right. But maybe the statistics are not truly accurate because people read in what I like to call “secret” – they read, but don’t voice that they do because they have no reason to.

I don’t know about you, but I know a lot more people who have picked up a book for enjoyment than someone who has never read a book for fun before.


4 thoughts on “Teenagers and Reading

  1. Ok, I had this really long speech typed up, and then WordPress spazzed, so I’m going to have to try to recreate it. It won’t be the same D: GRRRR. Anyway, I wrote part of an Spanish essay on this. I don’t like how people stereotype that teens never read anymore and that we’re glued to electronics. First of all, there’s this relatively new thing call an e-book, so that kind of throws a wrench in that generalization. Secondly, what do you expect? We grew up in a technology age, and oh, YOUR generation raised us in it. But still, we’re not all electronic-obsessed/addicted. And some people just don’t like to read, like my brother. But you try to find someone who hasn’t read Harry Potter, or Twilight, or John Green, or some other famous YA New York Bestsellers. Just because some people don’t have their noses constantly in a book (like me, antisocial me), doesn’t mean that they don’t pay any attention to the book world and the new stories that are gripping teens nationwide, even worldwide, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t ever crack open a book. So that’s my attempt at recreating my previous speech. It’s not as good, but it still conveys my point, dontcha think?

  2. Great post! It is true that there are far more distractions today, but when I need a mind-bending escape from my own little reality, there is nothing like a book. A movie isn’t long enough, a game isn’t deep enough, facebook is too vacuous, but hours spent in a book allows me to work that inner-visual part of my brain like nothing else that I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Very interesting anecdote. I don’t understand why people make such disparaging remarks or tend to generalize stuff and people. I’ve seen kids reading a lot, reading a bit and not reading at all. Those who don’t read simply haven’t found the right kind of books. There are some people who will read a lot and play outside little and vice versa. I’ve heard this debate about children stopping reading outside school and definitely, studies have been done about boys reading far less than girls but I really do think that’s changing.

    All I can say is, keep on reading!

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