Another day, another spate of articles bemoaning the state of today’s youth. This most recent is a bunching of studies that found that kids aren’t reading as much.
NPR put it this way: “Nearly half of 17-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one or two times a year — if that.That’s way down from a decade ago.”
GASP! The horror! Let’s trot out the motifs of the way this generation is RUINED FOREVER!
…but wait. It said “read for pleasure.” Hold the phone there. Perhaps there is another, different explanation beyond “the internet/video games/drugs/television did it.”
Terrifyingly, I’m now old enough to be considered part of the “adult” quotient, but I was in high school not too terribly long ago, and I can tell you something: there was a lot of required reading. And I like to read! I read all the time! But, during the school year, my reading fell to being mostly required reading.
And let me tell you, reading the Crucible for the fourth time in the same year (“to really understand the text” *gag*) gets really old and I would not consider that enjoyable!
So that’s me, a kid who loves reading and literally never leaves the house without a book. When I was 17, I wouldn’t necessarily have said reading was “pleasurable” either: I was maxed out, and, yeah, preferred to play video games or watch TV. How must it be for the kids who are ONLY exposed to school reading? They never get the opportunity to develop a fondness for reading because they’ve been conditioned to view it as work full of meaningless “symbolism.” (yes, I’m still scarred from “The Scarlet Letter.” Sometimes a tree is just a freakin’ tree, teach!)
In an increasingly technological society, I find it hard to believe that kids are not reading in general. We’re all reading and writing MORE than ever, with so much communication switching away from in-person or on the phone to texting, email, status updates, and online forums. It’s becoming MORE important, but that kind of reading and writing wouldn’t show up in these studies.
Essentially, I think the problem here is not with teens and reading for pleasure, but with the studies. I DO think there are probably plenty of things to distract kids from reading, but those things could be bolstered not by writing ominous-sounding articles about “kids today” but instead folding more “fun” books into required reading. As much as I loved “A Handmaid’s Tale,” would it kill school districts to allow some trendy stuff–maybe middle schoolers would really benefit from doing an analysis of “The Hunger Games” instead of a nonfiction book for a change.
What do you think? Should we be worried about teen reading levels?