Why Should You Read?

It is not a secret that reading has been pushed out of the picture for the past six decades. As a result, adolescents face devastating effects.


A student clutches an open book.

   Since the mid-seventies, teenagers have been quick to replace classic literature with social media. In 2023, it is more common to hunch for hours over a screen than a book. However, after investigating deeper about reading, I realized that the decline is becoming a serious issue.

   According to the American Psychological Association, a study conducted from 1976 to 2016, twelfth-graders have read two fewer books each year. In addition to that, less than twenty percent of teenagers in the United States read a book every day.

   Although reading less does not necessarily make you less intelligent or sociable than others, it is still an incredibly significant factor in the development of academic, social, and emotional skills. After being a librarian at Kickapoo for eight years, Mrs. McDonald can agree that reading enhances brain function in a multitude of ways.

   “The more words someone hears and comprehends, the more their brain will begin to develop and understand different situations, words, and problems. Reading helps open your mind, like a door where you can step into an entirely different realm. You can’t do what reading does with other activities,” McDonald said.

   For academic development, reading expands your vocabulary, improves comprehension, increases memory capacity, builds analytical and critical thinking skills, and more.

   According to the School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College, reading mystery or suspense books can encourage the reader to use their brain to piece together the story.

   “The classic here is when a young reader becomes absorbed with a mystery book – Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew were examples for generations of Americans – and manages to solve the mystery in her head before the books reveal it,” SESP stated.

   It is interesting that technology becomes more advanced every day though reading is on a steady decline. Over time, we have ditched our traditional ways of doing things such as socialization and culture. Changes in those things are normal, but rejecting literacy could take a devastating effect on the intelligence of the population.

   According to the National Endowment of the Arts, American teenagers who read less have lower levels of academic achievement than their peers. This can lead to lower chances of employment and lower income rates after high school. 

   “The shameful fact that nearly one-third of American teenagers drop out of school is deeply connected to declining literacy and reading comprehension.” (National Endowment for the Arts, 5).

   Navigating everyday life would not be possible without basic language and comprehension skills.

   “With lower levels of reading and writing ability, people do less well

in the job market. Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement.) (National Endowment for the Arts, 5).

   Teenreaderssociety.org can back up the fact that reading improves social skills, builds confidence, and aids in intellectual development. 

  “A twenty-year study in 2010 suggested that having books in the home is twice as important as parents’ educational level for social mobility,” teenreaderssociety.org said.

   As well as increasing social mobility, reading can release stress and anxiety. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, reading can actually benefit you in a physical way.

   “Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%.”NAMI said.

   “The feeling of ‘losing one’s self’ while reading promotes deep relaxation comparable to meditation, countering depression, anxiety, and stress. It also helps develop our ability to focus for longer periods of time, creating lifelong learning habits and a deeper understanding of an increasingly complex world,” teenreaderssociety.org said.

  Teenagers turn books away because they find them challenging and boring. A solution to this is finding books that interest teenagers.

   In recent times, it is common to read a boring book as a school assignment, but teenagers don’t want to read that. We want to read fantasy, mystery, and adventure.

   In order to increase reading in teens, we need to help them find books that they are interested in. Having a wider variety of books that interest high school students could potentially increase the number of students who actually check out and read books.

   “When students come in and need help finding a book, we just ask them what they like to watch. Just like streaming services, our library physically categorizes every book into its respective genre. That really helps us match the student’s interests to the perfect book,” McDonald said.

   For teenagers in search of a book that suits their interests, the Teen Book Finder Database at ala.org. Here you can find award-winning picks and book lists recommended specifically for teenagers.

   Usually, adolescents learn to read at the age of six or seven. However, it is never too late to learn how to read. Reading skills can be built up through time and practice. I am sixteen years old and can admit that I still struggle with reading. It’s not an easy skill because it takes time and dedication, but it is completely worth it. 

   “Even if you are just reading to younger children, hearing a variety of new words strung together in different sentences and phrases can help with their academic and overall brain development. Also, just ten minutes of reading every day can improve literacy, and just six minutes a day can reduce stress by 68%,” McDonald said.

   As well as exposing teenagers to books in general, it is important to introduce them to a wide variety of genres, plots, and settings. Books that have characters from less known backgrounds can help increase your knowledge of your own identity. Kickapoo librarian, Mrs. Netzer, agrees with this.

   “When you are picking a book, it is easy to go with the genre you usually read and are familiar and comfortable with. However, in that case, you would not be receiving the literary exposure your brain really needs to develop and build comprehension,” Netzer said.

   On the other side, reading can also increase community involvement, relationships, and connections. Altogether, reading allows people to connect through book clubs and discussions. Book clubs allow readers to understand others’ interpretations of the book, learning more about each other through discussion and comprehension.

   “Reading allows you to be a lifelong learner about virtually anything. It also makes you a better writer when you are exposed to a variety of different writing styles. In addition to all of that, it also builds community and introduces various lived experiences and perspectives,” Netzer said. 

   In addition, research has proved that improves your vocabulary. This is a very important perk because having a more cultured vocabulary can improve your language skills, social interactions, and overall relationships. Cornerstone University agrees with this, stating that it is one of the most powerful factors in building vocabulary.

   “It’s much easier to learn vocabulary from a book than from memorizing words in the dictionary. That’s because you’re learning the words contextually. The words make sense within the context of what you’re reading so it makes it easier to remember later.” CU said.

   In addition to building vocabulary, it can also improve your long-term brain function and overall brain health.

   “Elderly people who do mental exercises like regular reading are 32% less likely to experience mental decline. In fact, a lifetime of reading can decrease a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s.” CU explained.

   Though it is a lot of information to absorb, overall if you make reading a daily habit, you will notice that some parts of your life are enhanced.