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Where have all the good books gone?

Young people don’t seem interested in reading anymore

Reading for enjoyment seems like an old person’s game.

A modern paradox of the iPhone and social media age is that teenagers and college-students are somehow reading more than they ever have and picking up books less than they ever have. Someone can sit on their phone for an hour and pick up thousands of small pieces of information and go years without reading a book out of enjoyment.

Maybe it’s the old soul in me, but I feel guilty when I don’t have a book that I’m currently reading. I grew up in a family where the question, “What have you read lately?” was simple table-talk. However, when you ask someone at NDSU what they’ve been reading lately, a textbook is the most likely answer.

The idea that social media is a black hole that consumes its users is no new revelation. I myself have been privy to hours spent in an Instagram spiral that begins with cat videos and ends with watching twenty cake decorating videos. However, the effects of this phenomenon on young readership should be considered.

When we spend all day in class reading material that seems dry and bland, it can be hard to want to go and read for enjoyment. Words on a page seem to carry a burdensome quality that words on our phone just don’t. 

Twitter makes us feel connected and Instagram can bring us into the lives of strangers in mere seconds. Reading a book feels like a disconnected luxury most college students seem uninterested in. 

In the time it takes to read a book, someone could have watched the latest episode of a popular TV show, seen someone’s latest Youtube video, or joined in on the latest Tik Tok trend. It’s easier to talk about these things over dinner with friends than it is to talk about character development in a book it is likely no one has read.

The Pew Research Center has done a study that explores reading among teens and young adults. As teens are introduced to the online world, their readership is likely to go down. It is much more likely to find a 13-year-old reading for fun than a 17-year-old, even though the required reading typically increases with age.

Reading for enjoyment has turned in to this romanticized notion. Many movies and TV shows play off the trope of the quiet and artsy person who is really deep and likes to discuss philosophy. I have never come across that person at NDSU, but I have come across my fair share of posts on social media about reading (did they actually read the book, we’ll never know).

Maybe it’s just the old lady in me, but I’m not quite ready to let go of good ole’ fashioned paperback reading. In fact, it may be so fun to me because I recognize that I’m not connected to anyone, it’s just me, the story and often, my cat.

To spend all day in class reading texts that make my eyes sore just to go back to my room to read something I want to is my own small rebellion, even if most people my age see it as a waste and a chore.

Reading is also not something you can convince others is great. If the only reading someone has ever read is “Catcher in the Rye” and “Grapes of Wrath,” classics I myself didn’t enjoy, it’s going to be extremely difficult to convince anyone that there truly is something out there for everyone. Especially when readings assigned at a college level often have a stuffy and lackluster feel about them.

So reading on the decline, but there are still some loyalists out there. We’re not looking to convert non-readers or spike our numbers with younger people. However, I think we’re often just looking to find each other. College book-clubs aren’t exactly a norm, but if there are any bookies out there who need a pal, we do exist!

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