Decline of American Readers

Andrew Kolba, Contributing Writer

In the ever-growing digital age, it seems books are written to be developed into film or television adaptations rather than to be read. It’s more likely to hear of a book because it’s getting an upcoming film adaption than to hear about a movie because it’s adapted from a well-known book

With technology being improved every day, whether it’s to call or text a loved one or to be better equipped to fight a war, it’s undoubtable that humans are evolving with it.

With innovation also comes a shift in lifestyle. People have changed the way they view and appreciate art.

Music can be uploaded via sharing sites such as Bandcamp or Spotify to be streamed around the world. Movies and television can be viewed on demand from a bedroom.

And, whether it’s a work of fiction, piece of nonfiction, graphic novel or news article, literature can be downloaded directly to a mobile device to be enjoyed virtually anywhere.

So why is it that while other mediums of art evolve and strive in this new digital age, books seem to suffer because of it?

Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization aimed to promote safe technology for kids, conducted a study in early 2016 which states only 17% of 17-year-olds read daily, while 53% of nine-year-olds reportedly read daily.

While these statistics are staggeringly low, others claim to have seen an influx in teens reading.

Mr. Pecic, librarian at Central Bucks South, disagrees that it’s just teenagers. He believes it’s a larger problem.

Mr. Pecic stated, “We as a country don’t read enough, people don’t take time to relax and read a book.”

Mr. Pecic believes kids could find the right book if you know yourself well enough. “There’s a book for everyone. I just try to find the right match,” Mr. Pecic said.

Ms. Malick, an English teacher at Central Bucks South, said that kids should be reading more to be able to “think creatively and critically”. “Imagination can’t be found equally in other mediums,” said Ms. Malick.

The number of books read by adults in America is also low. The Pew Research Center, a non-profit organization that reports demographic trends, researched the reading habits found in American adults.

The results, which come from a 2014 article, state that approximately 23% of adults in America had read zero books over the span of a year.

However, 31% claimed to have read 1-5 books in a year while 17% read 6-10 and 42% read 11 books or more. 4% refused to answer.

It’s merely speculative if technology has a definitive role in these low percentages. Different studies suggest it may not.

Some famed authors have weighed in on the importance of reading and why people should read them.

Stephen King, horror novelist, once said, “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, and hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”

Other authors have expressed hope for the future of young readers.

“The bright future is that readers are accepting more varied forms of stories,” said novelist Chuck Palahniuk on the future of readers and open-mindedness in literature.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) ran a study that compared how many Americans read for pleasure from 1992 to 2012.

In 1992, 61% of adults read for pleasure while only 59% of 18-24 year olds read for pleasure.

These numbers have been decreasing from 1992 to 2002, they’ve dropped from 61% to 57% and  then again from 59% to 52%.

However, the drop from 2002 to 2012, the years when internet flourished rapidly, is much smaller with 57% of all adults lowered to 55% while 18-24 year olds stayed at a steady 52%.

These numbers raise new questions regarding the decline of reading and how technology and time play a role in it.

Whatever caused the decline of readers in America, whether an increase in technology in our daily lives, or perhaps disconnect with the way we express emotion, create, or perceive art, there seems to be a strong consensus that something should be done.