Academics, technology and media seek consision and devalue complete reading
Where did the bookworms go?
When showing a book to toddlers, it is easy to see the joy and excitement gleaming in their eager eyes.
When showing a book to young adults, it is not unusual to be greeted with dramatic sighs, eye rolls and looks of impending doom in their eyes.
This shift is evident in society today, but this has not always been the case. Decades ago, those who read frequently were praised and admired. Reading for one’s own personal pleasure was celebrated and encouraged. Now, reading is not embraced.
If one chooses to read it must have a greater purpose—to find specific factual information, to study for a class, to learn a
new skill. Recreational reading is declining to a point where it is perceived as unproductive, or even unnecessary.
What factors cause this shift? Technology, especially the increase of online search engines, certainly plays a significant role. With a generation focused on knowing as many facts as possible, it is easy to type a keyword into a search engine and find a definitive answer, voiding the process of intellectual discovery. Additionally, with tools such as ctl+f, which instantly highlights specific terms, critical thinking skills become obsolete and the reader loses the benefits of acquiring knowledge that goes beyond mere answers.
Still, technology cannot be held solely accountable for such a dramatic shift in literary culture.
It is society’s manipulation of such innovations that is truly impactful. While on one hand technologies such as e-readers allow books and newspapers to become easily accessible to the masses, media is still used primarily to eliminate the necessity of strong reading skills.
The average news segment ranges from three to four minutes, permitting viewers to question the utility of reading a paper for an hour when an abbreviated version is available for a fraction of the time.
Consequently, this leads to a societal mindset that does not value literature to the extent it once did. Presently, three in 10 households do not own books. It is almost unreasonable to expect children who are raised in a home without books to discover
the value of the written word on their own.
This would lead one to look at the education system as a secondary way to encourage literary appreciation.
Unfortunately, as a whole, schools are failing to fulfill this expectation. With the increasing prominence of standardized testing, the focus of schools is currently placed on pure memorization.
Why would students read novels when their focus is on remembering the factual information presented in textbooks instead? Recreational reading will not ensure a satisfactory grade on a test or even better grades as a whole.
Sure, reading promises a range of long term benefits ranging from improved focus, memory and writing abilities, to something as simple as stress reduction.
However, short-term benefits outweigh the lasting ones, which leads a variety of students to focus on textbook and assigned reading only.
This contributes to the shift of young adults exhibiting a lack of appreciation towards literature.
The decrease in avid young adult readers is not only worrisome for the present, but for the future of society. A generation raised without developing passions for literature is cataclysmic.
In order for democracy to remain effective, it is imperative that citizens learn critical thinking skills, creativity, ambition, a sense of self.
Without these, the people become powerless to question authority, completely destroying the purpose of a government founded “by the people”.
Look at nations struggling to establish stable governments that guarantee equalities and freedoms. Look at nations undoubtedly without equalities and freedoms.
Do their people read? More importantly, do their people read recreationally? The answer is no.
Many of these countries focus on providing education exclusively to the wealthy, limiting what can be read, or focusing on purely training students to thrive as employees.
The humanities are neglected and the results are clear. Reading must be emphasized.
So sit down and pick up a book. Learn to love reading. The results will be staggering.
Kate Kafka is a freshman English major from Walnut Creek, Calif. She can be reached at email@example.com.