Teen Reading: Why Is it Decreasing?


Bridget Gwyn, Writer


Chatfield Senior High’s library is an epicenter of activity, especially during access and lunch. A row of desktop computers cater to students of all kinds, who work on essays or sneak video games between IXl problems. A plethora of different types of seating cover the entire floorspace, from empty tables for groups to cluster around chromebooks or chess games to couches and lounges with charging stations that students prop their feet upon and relax. Seasonally themed decorations and carefully organized posters and props cover every spare space. And yet the focal point of the library, the shelves and walls lined with books of every kind, seem to go unnoticed by the general populous of Chatfield. It seems that students are reading for fun less and less, resulting in books that haven’t been checked out in ten years being routinely carted off and donated. But why is this occurring?

A recent study done by the American Psychological Association reports that only 20% of teenagers say they read a book, magazine, or newspaper daily, while 80% say they use social media. While there is most definitely overlap on this, these statistics can be slightly concerning. Most teenagers, myself included, feel that they get most of their news from social media apps like Twitter, but it should be acknowledged that there are also incredibly important things you can learn from reading novels, nonfiction and fiction alike. Nonfiction novels provide intensive detail on certain subjects, from biographies to political events to concepts. Fiction novels, on the other hand, are informative on the ethical and humane spectrum. A recent influx of YA authors that cover a variety of genres, from current issues to historical to romance and science fiction, has exploded in the literary world. Representation on all accounts is more prevalent than ever. 

According to Chatfield librarian Mrs Weller, the answer is simple; “kids just don’t have enough time”. This sentiment is popular amongst teachers and students as well. Demanding and rigorous coursework, the expectation of abundant extracurriculars and exercise (whether it be from a sports team or from a gym), as well as a part-time job and helping around the house are just the basic expectations of modern-day teenagers. This doesn’t include a semblance of a social life or any time for self-care. Realistically, how could any teenager fit in reading a book for fun?

After having discussions with a few groups of high school students who would prefer to stay anonymous, it’s become clear that the decreasing percentage of readers is not because of a lack of a desire but because of a lack of time. The majority of the teenagers claimed that they had loved reading when they were younger, and wished they could pick it back up again, but that the only books they’d read, for some in years, were ones required by school English classes. I saw no apathy towards the effect of reading; many students claimed they still remembered the books they’d loved as middle schoolers, and that there had been a few mandatory-reading books that had changed their lives. And while it makes perfect sense to argue that teens spend plenty of time on their social media when they could potentially be reading instead, many don’t find books as accessible as social media is. 

The next step in increasing teen literacy would be spreading the word about the mobile options in reading. Audio books and electronic apps (that Chatfield’s library coincidentally have to offer) are ways to listen to and read books on the go, and are a lot more portable than carrying around several books. And if you aren’t quite ready to dive into full books, podcasts are snippets of information that are available for you to learn from. 

The decrease in teen reading is not due to laziness or the internet, like many think; it’s due to the incredible amount of expectations current teens are facing. In fact, the internet is a way to help teens get more access to books, and therefore to education in its many faceted faces.