Growing up causes a lot of changes in our lives. We get more responsibilities, more homework, and we become busier overall. Because of this, many of us stop doing some of the things we used to enjoy—like reading.
And while this may not seem like a big deal, the fact that reading for pleasure is becoming less and less popular among adolescents, is worrying for many reasons.
Why it’s important to read
There are many benefits to reading, especially during our teenage years. Our brains develop until the age of 25, and it is important to help it do so. Reading exercises our brain muscles, helping us to become more attentive, making it easier for us to concentrate. It also helps to sharpen our memory. The thought that goes into reading, for example, detecting the characters, setting, and conflicts, makes reading a brain-stimulating activity, and these types of activities can help to prevent memory-loss diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Reading also increases our vocabulary and understanding of sentence structure. We can learn a lot of new words and methods of expressing ourselves, so when it comes to writing on our own, it’s easier to put our speech into written words. “The best writers are always readers,” adds MYP Journalism Teacher Jennifer Stevens. “Reading is the easiest thing we can do to improve our prose.”
And finally, books can open our minds to all kinds of different topics and experiences. This not only makes us more aware of worldwide events and history, but it gives us important perspective.
“Reading is a way of building up our empathy,” says AISB Librarian Cristina Cuzuc. “We as readers put ourselves in the characters’ shoes, and we experience the same things as our character does.”
The decrease in reading
Despite all the benefits of reading, the number of people that still read for pleasure is declining greatly. This is because of how advanced technology is becoming, and how it doesn’t leave any time for other activities such as reading an actual book.
I conducted a survey that was sent to AISB’s secondary students, asking them about their reading habits. This survey ranged with students from grades 6-11. When asked how many books they read this year, 25% said they read 1-3 books. Another 25% said they read 4-6. Several had read zero, and few had read more than six. This is a low amount, especially since around four books are assigned every year for school.
I then asked how many of the following students read the books assigned, and the majority, 54.2% said they “sometimes, but rarely” do. These statistics show how dismissed reading has become, even when it is mandatory.
When I asked MYP English Teacher Charles Adams if this was due to age, he said he thought it had more to do with “the fact that as one ages external pressures build on one’s available free time, whether it’s academic or social.”
He adds, “As you move up in grade levels, you have to make conscious decisions to carve out time and space for absorbing complicated texts, whereas in the younger grades time was carved out for you.”
Students tend to choose to spend the little free time they have left to do other things, and do not read for pleasure. Having diverse activities is also important; however, reading for pleasure is enjoyable and has a multitude of benefits!
Reading vs. Listening to Audiobooks
Reading comes in multiple forms, whether it’s novels, e-books, magazines, graphic novels, or even skimming the headlines on your phone.
Audiobooks are becoming more popular by the year. And while listening to a book can be a great option (at least for auditory learners), experts argue whether or not it offers the same benefits.
Reading words on paper is proven to teach more than listening to that same information would. There was a study conducted by TIME in which some students were split into two groups, one listening to a podcast, and the other reading a book, both containing the same information. They were then given a quiz, and the students that read did significantly better.
This study shows us that actually reading helps your brain retain the information better. However, there are also some other benefits to audiobooks. First, they help with our fluency and pronunciation. They also allow listeners to notice little things people do while reading aloud such as pausing and breathing effectively, as well as modeling the correct speed.
Listening to audiobooks can take less time than reading (depending on your speed), and can be done while multitasking. It’s also a great option for people with visual impairments; and there are multiple websites that have audiobooks online for free.
Now that you’ve read about all the benefits of reading, hopefully you’ll want to check out a book! Here are five of the most popular books available at AISB’s library, but you can visit this link to see what else is available.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Goodreads says: “Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.”
Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau
Goodreads says: “Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.”
96 Miles by J.L. Esplin
Goodreads says: “The Lockwood brothers are supposed to be able to survive anything. Their dad, a hardcore survivalist, has stockpiled enough food and water on their isolated Nevada ranch to last for months. But when they are robbed at gunpoint during a massive blackout while their dad is out of town, John and Stew must walk 96 miles in the stark desert sun to get help–and they have only 3 days before their time runs out….”
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
Goodreads says: “The Line Tender is the story of Lucy, the daughter of a marine biologist and a rescue diver, and the summer that changes her life. If she ever wants to lift the cloud of grief over her family and community, she must complete the research her late mother began. She must follow the sharks.”
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Goodreads says: “Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?”
AISB’s librarian Cristina Cuzuc tells us that, besides these five books, her recommendations for February are: The last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera for middle schoolers, and either The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones or The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden for high schoolers.