Only 1 in 4 students age 12-16 say that they enjoy reading.
Are students not getting the right “tools”, is it the constant pressure and push for it, do students not have the time for it or do electronics play a huge role in this?
Ketchikan High School librarian Caitlin Jacobson thinks that there will always be split between people who strongly dislike or like reading, but there are also people who have not been given the chance to enjoy it.
“I think there’s a little bit of everything. Some kids have not been given opportunities to read for fun or maybe they just haven’t found the right books for them,” said Jacobson. “Sometimes kids are reading things that are too hard for their reading level or they have been pressured to reading things that are more challenging and they are not given a chance to enjoy the experience. It’s important for teachers to be more flexible and give kids a chance to choose what they want.”
As Jacobson said “there’s a little bit of everything” there are book lovers, book haters and now there’s the internet junkies. Senior Leah Call believes it’s more convenient for kids now a days to pick up their phones rather than pick up a book.
“To teenagers being on our phones or watching netflix is easier and more fun than picking up a book,” said Call.
Recreational reading can’t compete with the shiny speed of the Internet.
Over 95% of teens have access to a device while only 45% of 17 year olds say they read a book by choice. Students are ditching the books and picking up their phones. But it’s not just to waste time. Instructional manuals have been largely replaced with instructional videos which are far more helpful.
Senior Besjan Kamberi would rather pick up his phone and watch haircutting tutorials than pick up a book.
“For the career I’m going into, which is cosmetology, of course I’m going to spend my free time watching hair cutting and dying videos than pick up a book,” said Kamberi. “It’s pretty useless for me to pick up Shakespeare and start reading it for “fun”, how is that going to help me in the long run?”
Is recreational reading slowly being replaced by phones? Senior Leah Call doesn’t think so.
“I think there will always be books and people who like reading, I don’t think technology will ever completely take over reading and those people who love it,” said Call.
Academic vs. recreational reading.
There is a profound difference between wanting to read, and having to read.
“I don’t read books a lot because I don’t have time,” said Hannah Maxwell. “But I read news articles daily because I feel like it helps me to keep learning and growing as a person.”
So can schools and teachers do more to help students appreciate and enjoy academic reading? Junior Amanda Dale thinks if the assigned books that were read for academic purposes in English class were more in the students liking there would be a higher preference in reading among students.
“I think that if the mandatory reading done in English was a bit more appealing to the students that maybe that would make reading more liked,” said Dale. “I’m more of a fiction type of person but I’m fine with reading anything given to me but I know some of my friends dislike fiction. So it really all depends on the person.”
But how do you decide what 24 freshmen want to read? Do you ignore the classics that have the most impactful telling of the human condition in favor of vampire books because kids like them more? English teacher Jeff Lund says there’s a bit of both assigned books as part of the freshman curriculum and books that the students get to choose for independent reading.
“Most of the books are prearranged, we all do the same books just in different orders,” said Lund. “I try to allow [students] to read what they want for the independent novels.”
Kids at Kayhi also get to choose their own English content areas for junior and senior year which almost no high schools get to do. So Kayhi has it good in this regard. If you don’t like Shakespeare, don’t take it. If Sports Lit is more your thing, take that. Same with Science FIction or Lit into Film. What more could kids want?
“The fact that you get to choose is crazy, it’s been great as a teacher to be able to teach that and the kids can choose a genre that they like,” said Lund.
The future of the life-long readers
It’s no surprise that Lund reads for fun. He’s an English teacher, but that’s not the reason.
“I like a lot of nonfiction things that make me think and things can be be applicable to life,” said Lund.
Math teacher Evan Raber reads 5-7 books per year and prefers reading over television.
“I find it relaxing and I feel smarter versus watching TV,” said Raber.