The Morse Code

How can we rescue a love for reading?

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Today’s teens are resorting to recreational reading on a lower scale than ever, largely choosing the comforts of social media over a paperback novel. They acknowledge reading as a chore; an obstacle hindering them from returning to the digital world.

This unhealthy practice is not going without consequence, however. The number of teens using their downtime for reading has only decreased in recent years, and average test scores have dropped with it. A 2017 study by the University of Georgia found that average SAT scores have fallen by 24 points between 1998 and 2017. What has changed during this time? A 2014 study by Common Sense Media found that 45% of 17-year-olds claimed to only read by choice once or twice a year.

They do not use their downtime to indulge in what could be their favorite novels – many find no need for it. It is likely because they no longer see it as a priority. With a generation of teens always scrambling for more time to sleep, study, and socialize, reading for fun has long since fallen to the back of their minds.

Downtime is spent almost entirely in front of a screen, taking in snippets of information and disregarding it soon after. A 2015 study by CNN concluded that 45% of teens will spend up to nine hours a day connected to some form of media – more than what is dedicated to sleep or school. Overall, teens are not reading as much as they are scrolling through endless feed.

When asked, teenagers may resort to the opinion that they simply don’t need to read for fun. There is always a substantial amount of work that needs to get done, another test to study for, another day of socializing with friends – whether face to face or through a screen. However, it is proven that it is negatively impacting their test scores – among other academic areas, and other areas of their lives entirely.

This is a trend that cannot be overlooked. According to College Board, the facilitator of the SAT, reading and writing scores on average have dropped by 8 points and 13 points respectively between 2006 and 2015, with only a steeper downward trend in sight.  

With social media only catering to a generation that is losing out on critical thinking and analysis skills – both keystones to reading and writing – society will be forced to suffer. What begins as falling test scores will end in citizens who will be unable to make decisions based on thoughtful scrutiny or a workforce that will be unable to convert their thoughts into actions.

Opponents will claim that generations have passed through the same problem for decades, and that society is only marching towards advancements. But never before have so many teens sacrificed the wholesome feeling of escaping to another world through the pages of a novel for another 10 minutes on YouTube, another picture on Instagram, or another search on Twitter. This only supplements the perpetuating cycle of living their lives through a screen.

Teens need to erase the notion that books will make them feel trapped – forced to focus on black and white text while being disconnected from the digital world. Recovering a love of reading will only produce healthy benefits for an individual. Decreased stress, increased focus, and an ever-expanding lexicon are only the beginning when a teen chooses to dedicate a part of their day to picking up a novel.

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