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We need to read more

I can't tell you how hard it is to get my high school students to love reading. It's like pulling teeth for some of them. I've heard things like, "I hate reading," or "Can't we just watch the movie?" They're not alone.

The US as a whole has been losing its love for reading for some time now, and according to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Americans spent an average of only 17 minutes per day reading for enjoyment, versus three hours watching TV and 28 minutes playing games and using computers.

Barnes and Noble and Border stores used to be almost as noticeable as Starbucks. In 1992, the Census Bureau reported 13,136 brick-and-mortar bookstores, but by 2016, that number dwindled to 6,448. Those stores reported their highest sales in 2004 of $2.20 billion, but that number fell to $1.03 billion in 2018. Chains like Borders closed and a number of Barnes and Noble locations disappeared.

While it should be easier to read today more than ever with the advent of e-books, according to Global English Editing, only 27 percent of US Adults reported reading a book in the last year. That number puts them in a similar position with Vietnam's reading level. America reads on average 5.7 hours a week, which marks them as 23rd on the list of what countries read the most. They are behind the global average of 6.5 hours a week, and well behind number one India's 10.7 hours a week.

In a Washington Post article, the decline in reading started well before the advent of social media and the Internet, but began with the birth of television around 1955. Since then, reading and TV began to go on different paths as reading time declined and TV time took off.

Yet social media and the internet are only hurting the cause. In a study by the American Psychological Association, US teens spent less than 20 percent of their time daily reading a book, magazine, or newspaper for pleasure while more than 80 percent reported using social media.

“In the mid-2010s, the average American 12th-grader reported spending approximately two hours a day texting, just over two hours a day on the internet — which included gaming — and just under two hours a day on social media. That’s a total of about six hours per day on just three digital media activities during their leisure time,” said Jean M. Twenge, PhD, author of the book iGena nd professor of psychology at San Diego State University, as reported in the same APA article.

At my high school, we had to enforce a no cellphone policy just to get kids to pay attention in class and focus on things like their reading. Students in my journalism class report getting their news from social media, and separating fact from fiction is getting harder than ever in today's world.

We need to slow our world down. We need to teach our kids to love reading. We need to not always give in to watch a TV show when a perfectly good book can await us. There is nothing wrong with TV. I love a good show, but nine times out of ten, a chapter in a book can give you a much better episode than any TV show can offer. Reading is not work. It can be as mindless as turning on The Office at the end of the day, but you just have to change your mindset.

I'm worried about the future of America. I worry about a future of nonreaders. The more you read, the better you are at writing and communicating as well. They go hand in hand. Think about a book you want to pick up today. It's as easy as turning to a show on Netflix. They're on your phone, at a bookstore, or at your local library. Or maybe you have one lying around the house somewhere. You may just find a love you didn't know you had.

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