What is destroying the desire to read?

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If you know anything, you know that a lot of high school students hate to read. It’s easy to take this with a grain of salt, but the reality of the matter is that students are reading less and less for both recreation and education, and a lack of literacy is detrimental to our future.

In English classes around campus, we’re challenged with difficult to understand, but enriching novels that span from The Epic of Gilgamesh to The Scarlet Letter. When tasked with reading these, however, many students choose to do the recommended alternative, SparkNotes. Alternative resources are great to further understand the books we read, but in most English classes, you’ll find that they’ve become the primary resource while the actual texts take a backseat. Above all, this shows not a lack of learning, but a lack of effort in high school students. It’s easy to wonder what the point is in trying when most of your peers haven’t read a single page. 

Resources like SparkNotes have eliminated the need for reading altogether, at least in a classroom setting. Even notoriously hard quizzes that are supposed to be based on more than plot can easily be aced with a quick skimming of their summaries. SparkNotes has practically eliminated the need for deeper thinking with their approximately 570 study guides, which range from The Hunger Games Series to The Bible. Each study guide carefully covers and analyzes the events of each chapter, and also features a section that points out all of the themes, symbols, and motifs. All the work we’re expected to do is practically handed to us on a platter.

It’s the modern version of watching the movie in lieu of reading the book”

I’ll admit that I find SparkNotes helpful in a pinch, or during a project. Rather than scanning the chapter or book for the exact moment I need, I can find a nice summarization of what I’m looking for with a few keystrokes. I can prioritize other classwork when necessary just by reading a few sentences to prepare for a discussion the next day. It’s the modern version of watching the movie in lieu of reading the book, and in this case you won’t have to worry about discrepancies.

But what we’re doing to ourselves as students is self-sabotage. Skipping a book for English may save us effort or time, we’re giving up a thorough education for it. We read Shakespeare because it’s challenging, not despite it. We read the classics because they built our society and culture, and we should know how we’ve grown and changed over time.

There is no shame in enjoying a book, and that’s the beauty of an English class. You can read books from Bram Stoker, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Ray Bradbury and you might not like them all, but what you do read and enjoy can open up a whole world of stories that you will love and cherish forever. It’s not a waste of time to read, although many people have decided to look at it that way.

Besides the enjoyment of immersing yourself in a completely different world, reading offers practical benefits as well. While many view difficult language to be a reason to put a book down, learning those words will build your vocabulary and help in the future with essays or even communicating skills. The act of reading a story and looking through the narrator’s eyes builds empathy and understanding, something that a person could never have too much of.

But when all is said and done, not all people see reading this way. It could be that there is always a bright and shiny distraction in the form of a smart phone, or possibly it’s our short attention span. Maybe it just isn’t fun when compared to television shows or movies that do all of the imagining for us. Whatever the excuses, we are hurting ourselves by skipping chapters or whole novels, and it’s up to us as students to take responsibility for our own education and do it right.

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