Are Today’s Students Reading Less?


In the past decade, a distinct emptiness has arisen in the hallways of schools around America. Schools, places of learning, lack the student usage of the most fundamental transfer of knowledge: books. Many would assume that since books are the primary modem that has always been used to transfer knowledge, a school of all places would be in excess. While our school Media Center has its fair share of literature, students in the hallways seem to be completely uninterested in the resources just around the corner. Why is this happening, and how can we get students to start reading again?

According to a recently released study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (explained in detail here), today’s youth are reading is extremely low. The number of 9-year-olds that “read almost every day” dropped from 53% in 1984 to 42% in 2020, and from 35% to 19% for 13-year-olds. While the NAEP did not obtain the 2020 information on 17-year-olds due to COVID-19 online learning, their most recent information shows that the number of 17-year-olds that read almost every day dropped from 31% in 1984 to 19% in 2012. There is an indisputable nationwide decline in the amount of reading.

While some argue that forced reading is causing children to have a disinterest and dislike in reading, upon considering forms of such enforcement have been around for hundreds of years, it does not explain the recent decline over the past few decades. A likely explanation is an increase in accessible and engaging technology: 46% of teens claimed they were online almost constantly in 2022 – a rise from 2014-15 when it was 26%, according to Pew Research Center.

Based on these statistics, it is reasonable to conclude that the time spent using technology is replacing the time used reading. If fewer books were forced upon students and recreational reading was promoted instead, students would likely start reading more. It may not be possible to decrease the amount of time students spend on technology, but if students start to enjoy reading more they may decide to replace their technology time with books. If the United States continues with the current decline in pleasure reading, our nation’s education may not be able to compete with the rest of the world.