The Dying Art of Reading


“What are you playing on your phone?” a familiar voice rang in my ear as I sat in the back of a Boy Scout Meeting. I looked up to see Gabe, a 15 year old, who was bored with the scouting activity. “I am reading an article, see?” As I turned my phone towards him so he could see my screen, his face soured, “That’s no fun, why bother reading unless it is for school?”  I probed further to understand, “You don’t read for pleasure?” “For pleasure? Video Games, Movies, Youtube that is pleasure, reading is torture!” He scoffed. I have heard his sentiments echoed in my classroom many times. Is this the opinion of most of our youth?

I remember books being my escape as a child. They allowed me to travel the world and see amazing things. Books were so much more than words on a page, they were movies that played in my mind. Vivid with colors, details and emotions. Nothing was better than sitting outside under a tree or crawling under the covers with a great book. I recall the first time I saw a film that was based on a book I read: “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls. I was in fourth grade. I remember being excited since I knew the story. Then being a bit disappointed because the Hollywood version of the book didn’t match up with the film that played in my mind when I read the story. Too this day I struggle with watching films based upon books because the book is ALWAYS better. Good books draw you in, Great books hold you there so that you never want to put them down. Why doesn’t Gabe see this?

It seems that books have been replaced with other forms of media. It takes less time and effort to watch the film. Does the next generation understand they are allowing others to tell the stories from their perspective or interpretation. Should we show students all the versions of Romeo and Juliet or Robin Hood (or heck Spiderman) and then have them read the original book (Play or comic)  to figure out which film connects to their vision? I see the death of reading in my own children. My boys don’t dive into books like their sister. While Grace curls up on her bed reading daily, the boys resist this urge. They are more visually stimulated by film/TV.

Is it access and quantity of film versions that drives the move away from books? Or is it the speed of delivery? Or is it schools that have required reading lists? What ever it is, adults need to model WHY we read. It isn’t just for school and to gain information. Most of us started reading for FUN! The best movies around are made by us as we read a well written book.

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