“There are worst crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” -Ray Bradbury
Reading is defined as “the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud”. This can occur through any media evolving from the earliest historical records written on papyrus in ancient Egypt to modern-day E-Books from the Internet. During periods of history, only scholars and the privileged were allowed to learn to read making it a defining factor between the rich and the poor. This shows how literacy was valued as a skill throughout history and how now that almost everyone has access to it, we have to utilize it to educate ourselves.
In the 21st century, technology has advanced so far from its earliest forms especially when talking about access to literature and related subject matter. The creation of the Internet allowed for the development of digital libraries and thousands of databases that gives people access to unrestricted amounts of information at their fingertips. Instead of only professionally published works being available, now anyone can publish their writings through blogs and websites, consequently supporting the lack of quality control on the Web that can affect the public’s literacy and comprehension.
But, despite the issue of quality from the Internet, there is a more pressing concern.
Students are not reading. Current studies have shown that this generation only has an attention span of around 8 seconds. These 8 seconds make them unable to pick up a book and finish it without getting distracted, and compared to the decade prior, it takes more effort to complete a book.
Staten Island Technical High School students are no exception to these discoveries.
Mrs. Callan, an English teacher at SITHS shares that “Having taught 15 years I [can] see a decline in the student’s love of reading and reading outside the class.” After surveying a couple students about the last time they read, many of the responses demonstrated parallels to the discoveries.
Many couldn’t remember the last time they read a book of their own choosing but many did remember the last time they read, which were the textbooks pages assigned for homework by the school.
Kids aren’t reading for pleasure. Sabrina Tang, a Junior and member of the Creative Writing/ Literary Magazine Club reflects on the value of reading prior to this year. “Reading was a pastime for me… to relieve my stress… forget reality [and] all the troubles that were there.” But nowadays some of the books she reads are often school assigned.
With a keen interest in reading Ms. Callan similarly reflects that reading is, “a way to enter different worlds and places and to expand knowledge and thinking.”
However, despite the positive response and acknowledgment of reading there is still a problem that prevents kids from doing it. Distractions from social media platforms and the lack of time places a strain on kids and reading, widening the gap between them.
With many students at SITHS taking rigorous classes and extracurricular activities, the time left over is often devoted to spending time on social media platforms in order to socialize with friends or to relax. Online videos and television shows can extend the 8-second attention span of youths which lead reading to be defeated in comparison.
Although this decline may be seen as nothing but a side effect of technological progress has been reported it is detrimental. Studies have found that those using the online medium translates into the hobby of “skimming” in order to collect the most amount of information in a short period of time. However, regardless of the speed of information, there are also studies indicating the detriment to cognitive functions as people are constantly skimming such as the decline in reading comprehension.
However, how can youths change this decline?
They can start with themselves.
“Always have a book on you digitally [or] a hardcopy,” Mrs. Callan shares, a valuable piece of advice she has learned from Mr. Callahan himself who has an authentic passion for reading. While this may still be a challenge it can be considered a first step in the right direction.
Senior Franklin Zhu also offers another piece of valuable advice, “Read what you want to read [because it’s something] you should enjoy.”
As reading continues to decline it is useful to accept the idea that school commitments and lack of time pull away even the most avid of readers. But to all students out there, it is never too rekindle that dying flame.