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The Foothill Dragon Press

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Reading percentage declines in students


Students are becoming increasingly less interested in reading books. Credit: Josh Ren/The Foothill Dragon Press
Students are becoming increasingly less interested in reading books. Credit: Josh Ren/The Foothill Dragon Press

Technology has always played a part in our lives, but as it gets more advanced and attainable, simple things like books are being put on the back shelf.

The percentage of adolescents who read on a daily basis has declined from 38.1 percent in 2005 to 28.4 percent in 2012, an overall 10 percent decrease.

Teens are spending more hours browsing through the Internet than reading. More than 90 percent of teens are using forms of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Sophomore Kai Patterson views social media as something you rarely get anything out of, as opposed to reading, where you gain a wider vocabulary.

“It’s kind of just refreshing the page and reading over the same thing. But when you’re reading a book, you’re unraveling plot twists, foreshadowing, and characterization,” she said.

The amount of children reading outside of class has declined significantly as well. In 2005, the National Literacy Trust reported that 54 percent of children questioned, ages 8 to 16, said they would choose to watch TV rather than read a book.

A Foothill Dragon Press survey was conducted with this year’s freshmen class, who are participating in the Angel Potato Revolution. Of the 203 students questioned, 52 percent said that they spent more than three hours a day using technology.

Although some wrote in the survey that they preferred to do other activities, several students wrote that books were important because it helped them escape from reality.

“If it’s a good book then it is like being in another world and making new friends. Every time I finish a really good series I feel like I lose some of my friends and part of my life,” wrote freshman respondent Raquel Tadeo.

Freshman respondent Natasha Urban wrote that when she reads, it feels like she has transformed into the character and is living in the story.

“Reading for pleasure lets me escape from the stressful life I lead,” Urban wrote.

Others said reading inspires to write stories themselves.

“Reading means a lot to me; it always has,” wrote freshman respondent Grace Connolly. “Reading is a way to escape reality and do things I would never do in real life. Reading has introduced me to many of my friends and helped me through rough times. Reading has inspired me to write myself and create my own stories.”

Getting lost in a book isn’t just for entertainment, it can also be a stress reliever. Just six minutes of reading can reduce stress rates by more than two-thirds, according to research done at University of Sussex in 2009. Reading requires concentration and focus, which distracts the mind and eases tense muscles.

Besides relieving stress, reading books can lead to an increase of empathy. This is due to a book’s emotional transport, which could help improve understanding of another person’s emotions. In a study published by the Public Library of Science, after a week of reading books by authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens, people reported their empathic skills rose, depending on how high their emotional investment in the book was.

However, not all students find reading entertaining. Several students wrote in the survey that they either weren’t interested in books or just didn’t have the time to read and 35 percent said they barely ever read when it is not assigned.

“I used to read voluntarily when I was younger, but now that I’ve been busier with school and sports and stuff, I feel like I don’t really have time for it,” said sophomore Rachel Witt.

Freshmen Danielle Askar believes this generation to be so consumed in technology that they have forgotten the pleasure of reading a book.

“I think kids have forgotten the value of a good book due to these little rectangles called the ‘iPhone,’” Askar said in an email. “And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when you walk into the bookstore, the first thing you see are Nooks. Not even real books! So I think that the fact that society is so technology-focused nowadays, even bookstores, are strongly influencing kids.”

Freshman Jason Najera finds technology a distraction that “keeps everyone from reading.”

“Whenever someone gets a new Facebook alert or a new Snapchat, they put down what they are doing and go on their phone. This is a huge factor that prevents teens from reading,” Najera wrote in an email.

Movies based on a book series, like “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter,” often lead people to believe that if they watch the film, they won’t have to read the book. Patterson believes this is one of the reasons why kids are reading less and less.

“A lot of kids, they just think ‘Oh, I could just go see the movie,’ but that’s not the same thing because you don’t get any perspective,” she said.

Besides technology and films, the embarrassment of being caught reading is also a contributing factor. A National Literacy Trust survey found that 21.5 percent of the 34,000 8-16 year olds questioned said they would be embarrassed if their friends caught them reading. In addition, more than a quarter of the people questioned said that their parents didn’t care if they read or not, and those kids were found to be half as likely to score above average readers.

“To be honest, I find the decline of reading in teens and children sad, as I feel the generations will get dumber and dumber with less reading,” Askar said.

According to a report done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2009, one-third of public school fourth grade students scored “below basic” on their National Assessment of Educational Progress Reading Test. Fourth graders who said they read “Almost Every Day” scored 3 percent higher on the NAEP reading test than those who said they “Never or Hardly Ever” read.

Junior Ethan Tan feels the lack of technology at a younger age help kids read more because they’re not distracted.

“I feel like I’m much better off being a child that has read many books [in elementary school], than a kid who is in elementary school right now, who is not being exposed to literature as I was,” he said.

As the amount of homework increases, sophomore Meghan Schuyler finds herself reading less than she did in elementary school.

“I don’t read as much as I did in elementary school,” she said. “It’s not even, honestly, due as much to technology as it is to my increased work load, like homework-wise.”

Teens and children aren’t the only ones reading less. In a poll conducted by USA Today and Bookish, adults were asked what kept them from reading more books. About 51 percent cite a lack of free time, while 16 percent said lack of interest in books and 14 percent said lack of quality books.

“It’s just kind of disappointing. I mean, anywhere you go, grammar is a huge issue. I think that by not reading, a lot of people’s vocabulary and imaginations are getting affected by it. They’re just not as intelligent; they don’t have as big of a vocabulary,” Schuyler said.

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Despite those who aren’t interested in reading or simply have other activities to do, there are still some students who enjoy reading a good book.

“Reading for pleasure opens up my mind to thousands of thoughts and ideas that widen my perspective on the world,” wrote freshmen Summer Khouvilay. “Every time I read, I gain a better understanding of the new possibilities that are available for me. Not only does reading influence my thoughts, it enhances my literature comprehension. The exposure to new vocabulary and different word usages immensely helps my reading and writing skills, especially in school.”

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  • R

    Reader for life!Dec 17, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    Great article…viva la Angel Potato Revolution…THIS is the why we do it!