Reading For Pleasure—A Lost Habit

Lauren Salzman   “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self chosen ignorance.” Confucius   Despite the influx of student readers in elementary schools, the New York Times states that reading growth amongst middle school students is stagnant, while high schoolers’ reading level and interest is quickly declining. There have been studies to show that the amount of homework given does not necessarily correspond to achievement, but that reading definitely does. So why are we avoiding one of the areas that contributes most to our success? Why is there such a decrease in interest? As one grows older, along with social pressures, distractions such as social media become more prevalent. On top of hours of homework, students often view reading as a chore as opposed to an activity to ease stress, which it is proven to do. In actuality, reading is a habit. And as one falls out of any habit, it becomes harder and harder to establish the routine again. Most high schoolers would much rather talk to friends or watch tv in their free time than have an intellectual conversation with Ernest Hemingway or JD Salinger. Sophomore Allegra Bolanhemat says that, “Last year I devoted most of my time to school work and left reading out of my daily routine. Now after developing better study habits, I have found reading before bed allows me to unwind. I am currently reading Liar’s Poker and look forward to picking it up every night. When I am reading a book with an interesting subject, pages fly by.” Additionally, kids’ attention spans are continually decreasing. We are used to having instant gratification and constant stimulation. Most do not have the patience for character development or ten pages depicting scenery. Upper School English teacher Mr. Joyce notes that, “So many (almost all) Latin students are going to college, and they will be working with people at some point in their lives. You need to sound pleasant in emails, over the phone, and on paper.”   Reading does so much to help in this sense.   “The ways that we read everyday (tv subtitles, texts, etc.) do not make us more fluent with language, but reading does,” Mr. Joyce explains. Every time we read, our subconscious becomes more in tune with sentence structure, how to vary word choice, and these skills carry over into our daily communication skills. Additionally, Mr. Joyce brought to my attention the idea that, “People read/teach novels to understand how to sympathize.” Everyone can relate to sitting in their English class and analyzing a character’s actions. By reading, one can journey into the mind of a character and better learn to sympathize and relate to those around us. Ms. Gifford, who has been an upper school librarian for ten years, notes that, “people check out books when there is a hot series (students and adults alike).”   Yet over the years as a whole, there have been fewer readerships in the Upper School.   “It’s a luxury to find time to read,” Ms. Gifford explains. If you can find a book that interests you, you then have to find the time to sit down (free of distractions) and actually read the book. In order to boost reading at Latin, the library staff sends out reading lists in the fall, spring, before breaks, and for the holidays. So in the near future, look out for the holiday reading list for a novel to read over the break. Last year, my mother and sister read the book Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. They talked incessantly about how it was their favorite book. But it wasn’t the plot that moved them, it was the characters that they fell in love with. After much protest, I decided to read it. Now, it is my favorite book. I spent countless nights staying up way too late reading in my room, time I previously spent on my computer (most likely on Netflix). I had 50 pages left, and we were on a family vacation. I read less than ten pages a day, for I didn’t want the book to end. That is when you know you have found an amazing book. I was on the last chapter and as I sat outside with my mom and sister, they watched me read it. On the last page, I started to cry— to this day I do not know if it was because it was over, or because the ending was so poignant. Regardless, everyone should be able to have this experience. Whatever is happening in one’s daily life, reading provides a new outlook and adventure, and lets one live vicariously through an author’s characters. We all need to make a conscious effort to get back into the habit of reading for pleasure. If any comments come to mind as to why kids are not reading as much, please feel free to leave them below! They will be much appreciated.  ]]>