My high school students don’t read any more. And I think I know why

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Opinion

August 27, 2019 - 10:26 AM

In 1980, 60% of high school seniors reported that they read a newspaper, magazine or book on a daily basis for pleasure; by 2016 that number had dropped to 16%.

Most of us who grew up in the United States before the advent of smartphones and social media can remember adults using phrases like “serious reading” or can name people in our orbit who claimed certain books changed their lives. I can still vividly recall teachers, friends and family members insisting I read this book or that poem, usually for reasons I had yet to understand.

Early on, we were imbued with the notion that reading mattered. Not because it empowered us to effectively absorb information or positioned us to do well on a future standardized exam. It mattered because the books we read often had a lasting and powerful impact on the people we would become.

In middle school, I greatly disappointed my English teacher father by telling him I had no love for the written word. But in high school I discovered the popular fiction of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy. In college, what I read and, more importantly, why I read, became central themes in my search for knowledge. I found myself hypnotized by the grandeur of Tolstoy, the longing of Wordsworth and the timeless wisdom of writers whose names are often associated with the classics.

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