Grace Baek / Portola HS 10th
According to the American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans who read has fallen by more than 30% since 2004. Reading time has declined drastically, from an average of 23 minutes per person a day in 2004 to 17 minutes in 2017.
Older generations are considering this a “Teen Reading Crisis,” blaming it on teens who choose to increase their screen time by going on social media, rather than grabbing a novel or newspaper. They believe that this dying culture of reading must be revived immediately in order to ensure that the future is full of young adults who have a lot of imagination, unprosaic dreams, and knowledge to lead on the rest of the world. They say that this can only be achieved through traditional books.
They believe in the plain medium of books-- the hardback covers and the smell of pine pages with all the letters printed out neatly. They especially worship timeless classics, books with simple pictures on the front and more words inside that are harder to understand.
Here’s why this is a problem. It seems as if the unfair hierarchy of the arts places books at the very top and everything else far below. However, the thoughts and messages put into an art form is what makes it valuable, not the medium that conveys it. A book does not have more intrinsic value just because it is a book. The same information and messages can be expressed through other types of entertainment and art, maybe even in a more effective way.
For example, social media has brought attention to global crises that have a lack of exposure in mainstream media. An example of one is the recent massacre in Sudan. Podcasts are becoming the future of storytelling through its convenience and time efficient communication. Movies are one of the most popular forms of media, and they are able to bring light to international communities; the acclaimed 2019 film Parasite was able to spread positive South Korean representation.
This is not to say that books do not have their own advantages as well. However, it is important to recognize other forms of mediums and that a balance between all kinds of art is not a bad idea.
As always, times are changing, language is changing, and so is the world we live in. The tradition of books will never completely die, because the way a book conveys its message is very special in its own way. So why not also devote some time to other mediums that give a more contemporary view of the world? Perhaps reading less is not as bad as everyone thinks it is.
<Grace Baek / Portola HS 10th