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Rediscovering Reading in the Age of Technology

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As a child I was a voracious reader. I remember sitting alone in the family room reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series while my family gathered around the TV for the winter Olympics. Or times when a younger me would sneakily add minutes to the 30-minute timer set for the required after-school reading. Reading challenges were nothing to me because that was my passion! But something changed as time went on. Gradually, less time was devoted to filling up my bookshelves as this love I had for literature dissolved and became a deep reluctance.

There are many reasons why so many kids (and even adults) groan at the idea of picking up a book, and your parents will say it’s the darn phones, which is partially true, but what really killed my passion?

High school.

There’s nothing quite like experiencing both the best and worst parts of adolescence in crowded classrooms for 8-hours a day, only to go home and be expected to read The Scarlet Letter? No thank you.

One of the major reasons middle and high school students gravitate away from reading is because most of the selected reading in school feels inaccessible, not because books are innately terrible. Students that are new to analyzing texts or even new to reading are handed classic works of literature–works that I have been assigned in college as an English major. They are complicated and sometimes convoluted, which discourages kids from picking up a book and reading independently because they associate books in school with the following: hard to read, boring and irrelevant. The classics are wonderful and important to learning, but overwhelming students with them has created an alliterate society (A.K.A. we can read, but we won’t).

Reading stopped feeling like self-care and became something of a chore–and I was in AP Literature! Even the 4.5 GPA students didn’t crack open A Heart of Darkness, not when SparkNotes was a few clicks away, and especially not when your phone was fully charged and filled with exciting apps and endless content. In this day and age, media is, quite literally, at your fingertips. Anything you could conjure up in your mind can be found with a quick search, things you didn’t know you needed to know are delivered to you with a flick and a scroll.

As a generation, we have learned to consume media so obsessively that a moment’s silence has become uncomfortable–I mean I can barely walk down the hall without TikTok open or earbuds in. New studies are even showing that it is very possible that our brains are rewiring themselves to become more adapted to the internet age. The brain is evolving to rapid-fire process content and change how we divide attention, communicate and retain information (Firth et al., 2019). Essentially, high school created a generation of non-readers and technology gave us all the tools to enable this.

So, what does this mean? Do we live in a world where reading is dead? Have we evolved beyond the need for traditional books when we have movies and television? I argue no. Any reader or teacher will tell you that reading is essential to so many aspects in life. It helps develop our sense of empathy by creating connections between ourselves and the diverse cast of characters we read about. As a young white woman from a middle-class family, I don’t know what it means to be a black man in America (Dear Martin by Nic Stone), or to be a young Korean girl working in her family’s restaurant (A Pho Love Story by Loan Le). Reading gives us the opportunity to experience life beyond our own lens. It teaches readers to develop emotionally and linguistically, expanding both vocabulary and life skills. Reading also, for many, is an act of self-care.

This technology-based culture we live in has many benefits but being constantly being entrenched in the successes and failures of society can take a heavy toll on your mental health–reading is the escape from the burdens of reality. It is intentional time to be with yourself and exist solely for yourself.

So how do we, as young adults, get back into reading? Technology isn’t the enemy here, but a resource. Online communities like BookTok (reading content on TikTok) and BookTube (reading content on YouTube) make reading accessible and engaging. Vloggers like Brittany the Bibliophile or Noelle Gallagher discuss latest releases and popular books; they’ll rate them, host online book clubs, do book buying hauls, or even host live read-along’s. BookTok is filled with creators that offer suggestions for any genre you may be interested in exploring, from Fantasy to Romance to Thrillers.

For those who struggle to read or feel that they don’t have time in an already busy schedule would benefit from audiobooks, downloadable from apps like Audible or Scribd. Pop in some earbuds and listen along to a book as you walk to class or on the treadmill. Play them in the car or during a shower.

Don’t want to pay top dollar for books? Try going to Changing Hands bookstore in Phoenix where you’ll find good quality used books for discounted prices, or online at Book Outlet. PDFs for many books are available with a Google search or Scribd, making them free and easy to have on-the-go.

Reading can be accessible. It’s not some scary monster you’ll be graded on and there is no deadline for it. No book is considered unworthy of being read or “fake reading” (I’m looking at you anti-romance snobs). Finding time to reintroduce literature into your life can be a step toward a healthier mind and beneficial habits that encourage and facilitate growth. All it takes is that first step.

Firth, J., Torous, J., Stubbs, B., Firth, J.A., Steiner, G.Z., Smith, L., Alvarez-Jimenez, M., Gleeson, J., Vancampfort, D., Armitage, C.J., & Sarris, J. (2019). The “online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition. World Psychiatry, 18(2), 119-129. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20617

Hi there! My name is Tara Lane, welcome to my profile! I am a 20 year old California native (shout out to the OC) that is majoring in English for Secondary Education. My life essentially revolves around reading and writing because I believe there is such power in words. I am thrilled to write for Her Campus and I'm hoping this page can be a resource for the lovely ladies at GCU to reference.
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