The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

FEATURE: Phones Take the Throne, Books Left Alone

The Rise of Smart Devices May be Responsible for the Reading Slump Among Teenagers
Elinor Russo
A student scrolls through Instagram while hiding their phone in a book. Many students employ similar tactics to get out of reading.

There is an increasing concern in The Student Library Advisory Board about declines in reading among teenagers. According to the American Psychological Association, less than 20% of high schoolers read for pleasure, while more than 80% use social media daily.

SLAB member senior Liza Engelbecht believes that the rise of smart devices may contribute to this adolescent reading slump.

“I definitely think people have been reading less because we’re being immersed by other things like TV and phones rather than books,” Engelbrecht said.

Offering a similar perspective, SLAB member junior Kaitlynn Sedich hypothesizes that the loss of interest in reading may have to do with the availability of technology.

“While some technology does foster reading, it’s really hard when you have your phone right there and you can mindlessly scroll and not have to focus your attention when sitting next to you is a book that you’ve been meaning to read,” Sedich said.

Sedich also believes that many students feel they don’t have time in their schedules to incorporate recreational reading into their day. With homework, extracurricular activities and after school jobs, many students find it difficult to prioritize reading.

“I think people don’t have as much time in their busy schedules,” Sedich said.

To support more reading among students, SLAB has implemented many practices into the library to get students more interested in literature. They have encouraged reading by decorating the library, creating displays of book recommendations, and this month, SLAB will be doing blind dates with a book for Valentines Day.

“Our main goal is putting ourselves on platforms that students care more about. We now have a social media team and we’re following some of the micro trends, coming up with our own, and posting book reviews,” Sedich said.

Librarian Marisa Hegeman has also tried to support student reading by trying to stay in touch with students and what interests them.

“I try to pay attention to what’s popular on social media and what kids want to read and stock more of those types of books: what they want to read, not necessarily what the adults think they should read,” Hegeman said.

Furthermore, Engelbecht feels that when students are reading books that appeal to them, it’s much easier for them to set aside time to read and in turn receive the benefits that come along with that.

“It has so many great benefits like reducing stress, expanding vocabulary and stimulating the brain,”

— Engelbecht said.

A study conducted by Yale researchers concluded that reading for up to three and a half hours per week can increase life expectancy by two years. Beyond the many health and academic benefits, Hegeman believes that reading often has positive effects on character.

“I really view books as windows and mirrors and it creates more empathetic humans,” Hegeman said. “To read about a person or experiences that you might not have is very powerful so they get to be a window for you into someone else’s life. It’s very hard to be a teenager, and it’s hard to be a human, so finding mirrors to see people going through similar struggles can be really important so you don’t feel quite so isolated or sad.”

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