In recent years, many high school students don’t read outside of their literature pieces and classic books taught in their English classes and either don’t know or want to read for pleasure.
A survey done of 80 Sequoia students from various grade levels shows that roughly 50 percent of students don’t read outside of school. Students may feel like reading is a chore since they have only been exposed to one form of reading and have never read for pleasure on their own.
Reading has a wide variety of benefits that many students neglect as they have only been exposed to reading they don’t enjoy. It can be very interesting and open up new opportunities for learning.
“It provides windows and mirrors. So the idea is that you have the window into somebody else’s world, you get to learn more about the world from just reading,” San Carlos Librarian Deidre Brill said.
One student who reads outside of school is freshman Axel Larson, who shared his opinion on the difference between reading in a classroom and reading for fun.
“When you’re reading for like an English class, you’re reading a different way, you’re reading for content knowledge[…]” Larson said, “but when you’re reading for pleasure, you’re more focused just [on] getting wrapped up in the book instead of trying to remember special events.”
According to a blog from Business Insider, a global news website, consistently reading has been proven to strengthen neural pathways, increasing our memory and empathy capabilities. I would advise students who don’t like to read to try it out so they can take advantage of some of these benefits while diving into a story they enjoy.
“I’ve learned over the years that that part of the brain that’s activated when we read for pleasure can also be activated when we’re listening to podcasts, or when we’re reading the news or even reading the internet,” Media Specialist Elizabeth Snow said.
Students sometimes may dislike reading classic books such as “The Great Gatsby”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, or “Of Mice and Men”, which makes them dislike reading as a whole. These students should know that the “great” books aren’t the only books they can read.
“And you should read the great books, but it’s also okay to just read something that you connect with, like it’s perfectly fine to not enjoy ‘Catcher in the Rye’. So my suggestion is to try something else,” Brill said.
For students who don’t enjoy reading, it is important to pick a book about a topic that they will enjoy reading about, otherwise you may have a bad first impression of reading. Finding books on topics you enjoy will make the experience more fun and personal. There are many resources available to highschool students that will help you find books such as the Media Center, San Mateo County Libraries, and various accounts on Instagram, Youtube, and TikTok that can help students find books that they will enjoy.
“I love the different social media book strands so there’s Bookstagram and my new favorite is Book Tok, TikTok. And there’s tons of librarians there’s tons of kids on there that are just reviewing books,” Snow said.
Trying different formats such as graphic novels, comic books, short stories, or audiobooks are also a great way to keep reading as they keep things fresh and interesting. Graphic novels especially can reduce the feeling of reading being a chore with the addition of images and a faster read due to the lesser amount of words. One graphic novel that I really enjoyed was “MAUS”, graphic novel about a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor depicted as mice.
“I happen to super duper love the ‘Ms. Marvel’ series. So if people are into specific series, that’s always a good way to jump in,” Brill said, “As far as in general graphic novels, there’s one called ‘Hey, Kiddo’, that I really love. It’s about the author’s life. He grew up with parents and substance abuse[…]There’s a lot of good graphic novel memoirs out there.”
After you start reading, it is also important to continue reading and find ways to stay motivated instead of finishing a book and then not reading anymore. Finding a series that is interesting is one way to keep returning to reading after finishing a book.
“Getting a [student] hooked into a series is like, absolutely the thing that will work every time. there’s so many spin off stories, too. So if you really identify with one character, there’s a good way to find other characters and similar stories that you can kind of go off of,” Brill said.
Creating a schedule can also be very beneficial to deal with distractions. The only key is setting one that you are sure you will be able to uphold. Starting with a small amount of reading and working your way up is one way to build a consistent schedule.
“Really try to dedicate half an hour, start with a half hour or 15 minutes. 15 minutes we’re gonna put your phone down, you’re going to actually read a physical book,” Snow said.
Having topics or genres that interest you are also very important when it comes to picking books to read. Using other forms of entertainment such as the movies, or the things in the news are great starters for finding books that will retain a student’s interest. For me, I really enjoyed Sci-Fi and video games, and after seeing an ad for “Ready Player One”, I decided to give the book a read. It started off a bit bland but when it dove more into the Sci-Fi virtual reality part, I couldn’t put the book down.
In my personal experience, I would try to allocate at least 15 minutes a day to read a book or the news. Putting my phone and other distractions down definitely helped me stay focused so hopefully this strategy can help you as well.
Once you follow these strategies you can try incorporating your own methods to make the reading experience even more personal.