Commentary: Teenage readers are on the decline

  According to a study by the Psychology of Popular Media Culture, a third of students did not read a book in 2016.

  In 2017, the Washington Post reported that Americans spend only an average of 17 minutes per day reading, an all-time low.

  Contrast these mere minutes spent reading with the numerous hours Americans spend on their cell phones each day — an astounding nine hours, according to Common Sense Media.

  As stark as these statistics are, I wasn’t surprised by them at all. I didn’t need to read the statistics to know that literature is dying. I see it clear in the Granite Bay community: simply put, I never see people reading anymore.

  When people are bored, their immediate reaction is to pull out their phones.

  So why is the decline of literature so concerning? If the whole point of a fictional book is to find a good story, movies and tv shows serve the same purpose. If it’s information we seek, a YouTube video would probably deliver the same information faster.

  However, books aren’t merely meant to provide stories and information. Reading actually has a large psychological and physical effect on people.

  A study done in Neurology found that mentally active Alzheimer patients — patients that read and wrote — developed dementia slower because they exercised their brains more.

  A 2016 Yale Public Health study found that those who read books for thirty minutes or more per day lived an average of two years longer.

  According to the Telegraph, reading reduces stress by 68 percent.

  Although I cannot personally attest to reduced dementia, a larger lifespan, or even a reduce in stress, I still see the positive effects of reading in my life.

  This summer, I attempted to read a book a week and regretted it by the second week.

  For that week, I had chosen to read East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Not only was the page count high, but Steinbeck’s style and storyline often confused me.

  When I sat down, reading seemed a burden. I could easily spend two hours a day on my phone, and yet reading for those two hours was mentally fatiguing. My brain and attention span were out of practice and I often had to re-read pages.

  However, pushing through the mental strain of reading so much classical literature proved meaningful.

  In my lifetime, I have probably watched hundreds of YouTube videos. From the ones I’ve watched over this past year, I can probably only recollect a few, the premises and main points already fading in my memory.

  However the books I read this past year cover central themes I will never forget; I can never forget what Steinbeck said about morality, mortality, prejudice, community and love.

  Fictional literature wields the ability to make people smile, laugh or cry. Truly, reading is an immersive experience people must witness for themselves.