We are the generation that no longer reads

FAMU student frustrated trying to focus while sitting in Coleman library. Photo by Haleigh Porter

Life was good back when you used to get AR points and prizes for reading books and testing well. Without that incentive, how often do you read now?

Reading books is fun and at times even therapeutic, but the numbers for Gen Z readers continue to decline and it’s not too hard to pinpoint why. One reason is because cellphones have taken over.

“I definitely wish I would pick up reading books again. It’s not like I don’t want to, I just don’t. It’s honestly so hard for me to stay focused reading required material for school so if I ever tried to read for fun, I know I would pick up my phone at least five times before I could move on to the next page,” Ernst Coupet said. Coupet is a junior mathematical science major.

Similarly, to Coupet’s concerns Pacific Standard Magazine cites, “Perhaps the most depressing statistic that the researchers cite is the decline of daily reading of some form of print — whether magazine, book, etc. — from 60 percent in the late 1970s to 12 percent today. The authors use the notion of ‘displacement theory’ to contextualize their results; 82 percent of young people use social media today, which more than likely displaces time they might formerly have given to reading.”

Social media, however, isn’t the only factor that can take away from reading for the Gen Z demographic. Sophomore environmental science major Tyra Hayden wished she had more time to read without school interfering.

“I read, but I read when necessary. So, for example, if I’m in class and I need to read, I will. And when I study, I read the information but that’s about it. I wish I read more, for sure. I wish I read more books that aren’t school related. I think what prohibits me from reading is definitely school. I just don’t have the time. Studying takes up the majority of my time,” Hayden said.

According to the Pacific Standard Magazine, the decline in reading worries some scholars: “I am less concerned with students’ cognitive impatience than with their potential inability to read with the sophistication necessary to grasp the complexity of thought and argument found in denser, longer, more demanding texts, whether in literature and science classes or, later, in wills, contracts, and public referenda,” the publication wrote.

While “reading referendum” can be concerning, some Gen Z-ers just want to take time away from their phone and schoolwork and get lost in a good book. Reading has been proven to improve memory, prevent Alzheimer’s and reduce stress.