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Fewer high school students read for pleasure than in the past

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2014 10:28 AM

The invention of the printing press sent a snowball rolling that has normalized literacy. Before Johannes Gutenberg developed his machine, most people didn't read. But now it's almost unheard of to find someone who is illiterate, and most people even read for pleasure. However, some fear that new mobile technology could be causing a decrease in reading efficiency and frequency. Are tablets and e-readers the new printing press? And if so, what does that mean for reading in education and for children at home?

Decline in pleasure reading
According to a study conducted by Common Sense Media, adolescents don't read for pleasure as much as they used to, and their reading scores haven't increased in about 20 years. In fact, the survey found that 53 percent of 9-year-olds and only 17 percent of 17-year-olds read for pleasure every day. Additionally, the number students who "never" or "hardly ever" read has tripled since 1984. 

The decrease in pleasure reading may have affected standardized test scores, as 17-year-olds haven't shown an improvement in about 30 years. The study revealed that younger children read far more often than older students, a disparity that could be caused by increased responsibilities in high school. High schoolers have more homework, more challenging courses, numerous extracurricular activities and college preparation to fret about. 

Move aside, literature
Though the study didn't connect a decline in reading with mobile technology, Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, seems to think there's a link. According to NPR, he studies the effects of technology on children.

"First of all, most children now have access to e-readers, or other smart electronic devices like phones and tablets," he told the source. "And they're spending time on that. Numerous reports show the increasing use of new technology platforms by kids. It just strikes me as extremely logical that that's a big factor."

Rather than read on the bus, many kids pull out their phones and watch TV shows. Even classrooms use mobile technology. According to a survey conducted by Project Tomorrow, an Irvine, California-based nonprofit group, one-third of middle school students prefer to read schoolwork digitally

Promoting a love of literature
While fewer high school students read for pleasure than in the past, the numbers don't have to stay the same. The Common Sense Media study revealed that when parents are avid readers, their children are more likely to develop a love of literature as well. Students whose schools use the Common Core State Standards read all sorts of texts in classrooms. Furthermore, they don't have to complete full novels to get the benefits of reading, they just need to read.