The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


Goodbye to Recreational Reading

Over the course of the last decade, with the proliferation of computers and the Internet, we have witnessed a startling decline in reading. In a survey conducted by the Literacy Company, 80 percent of US families did not buy or read a book in 2008, 33 percent of high school graduates did not read for the rest of their life, and 42 percent of college graduates never read a book after college.

Despite MSJ’s standing as an academically outstanding school, we are not exempt from the statistics that plague this nation. In an informal study conducted in a random English class at MSJ, only three students in the entire class reported reading books aside from Harry Potter, Twilight, or books assigned for English. “Who reads books outside of school?” said Junior William Gu. “We just don’t have the time. Some people don’t even read books for school.” As an anonymous source put it, “Even including the books I’m supposed to read for English, I’ve only read about two books from cover to cover.”

In a sense, they’re right. As students, we already have to juggle around our school work, extracurricular activities, and other things that look good on college applications. It might sometimes seem that reading is but a hobby, an optional activity to enrich the mind, while some students believe that the only place where literature remains useful is for SAT and AP essays.

We indignantly refer to our lack of reading as a “break”, necessary in order to address the work of school. However, bad habits tend to remain long after their usefulness have been served. Even if we had the time, few would dedicate that time to recreational reading. The Internet provides a myriad of ways to entertain ourselves, all of which are more attractive than sitting down to read a book. Although few people reported reading literature, either in physical print or as eBooks, many people still read via online newsgroups. This trend is understandable; the Internet offers up-to-date content with interactions between people, where anybody’s comments are portrayed on level ground.

What I’m talking about here is not the complete destruction of literature; it’s just the death of literature as we know it. What were once poetry and novels are now forum posts and comment threads. If we look through the tangled web of the Internet, we would find that people are still analyzing, commenting, and thinking about what they read.

There is still a place for literature, not only in our classrooms and libraries, but also in our rooms and dinner tables. Despite the fact that reading works of literature may be a thing of the past as people migrate to the Internet, “a library is a hospital for the mind.” Given the current state of reading, all of us need to stay overnight for observation.

Written by Roger Chen
Mar 19, 2010 at 01:29 PM

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