When is the last time you picked up a book and read for yourself? Between parents reading bedtime stories and teachers giving us books to read in class, reading in our earlier years is most often handed to us. Though as childhood turns to adult years, reading gets pushed further into the background of learning. Middle schools hold contests and challenges for students to read as many books as possible. However, once the student is onto high school and college, that drive eventually dies down if not maintained by the individual.
Despite having access to a full library at our disposal and audio books which make reading a breeze, many students do not make time for reading anymore. It is easy in this situation to blame the individual for their lack of reading by claiming that they are just lazy and move on. Although, rather than jump to quick accusations, we need to look at American reading practices both in the home and at school, as well as societal expectations that ultimately lead to this lack of reading.
Before school becomes a factor for learning, parents are the primary role model for reading behaviors. Whether they read bedtime stories or section off time specifically to read together, parents begin their child’s drive towards reading. Conversely, the moment when this becomes an issue is when parents do not have the time to incorporate reading into their children’s lives. At this point, the baton gets passed to teachers, despite that fact that teachers may have to do this for every one of their students as well.
Most students who attended kindergarten can vaguely remember sitting in a circle while the teacher read to them. As the students get older though, teachers pull back from this type of reading. Unfortunately, teachers do not just stop reading to us; they prioritize things above reading in their lesson plans and, by doing so, neglect the real-world knowledge that books can provide.
While we could simply point all fault towards schools or parents for failing to teach good reading behaviors, society as a whole does not do reading justice either. As students get older, the societal expectation is that they must also take on more individualistic learning methods over that of communal methods. That said, reading’s connotation becomes one of individual learning for immediate knowledge, like textbooks. Perhaps rather than forcing students to read on their own, communal reading practices should be upheld so that we can read together again. Imagine the drastic changes to book clubs that communal reading would provide.
From asking around, I found many people saying one additional idea often: they used to read regularly, but upon arriving at college, they prioritized socialization and friendships over taking hours of the day to read. Particularly in a new atmosphere, such as college, reading and other more reclusive tasks are often pushed aside to make more time with other people possible.
For the most part, books have the odds stacked against them. While there are still plenty of people who make the time, there is a sizable group of people who have not read a book since “The Giver” in middle school. Whether it is caused by lack of reading from an early age or just a new prioritization of time, reading has fallen into the background of many people’s lives. Perhaps we can learn to better teach reading practices in school, at home, and fight societal expectations so that we might be less reluctant to pick up a book and read for a while. Maybe then we would not have such horrid memories of being forced to read. Instead we could enjoy it, rather than dread it.