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The Nashoba Regional High School English department has made a point to incorporate independent reading into classes through the Nashoba Reads program. During Nashoba Reads, teachers allow students to read any book of their choice; it is meant to encourage reading outside the classroom and give students the opportunity to make their own reading selections.
Lately, many students have taken up the habit of reading one single book consistently over the entire school year, or reading just a few chapters from a different book every time they participate in Nashoba Reads. So are students really reading outside of school? Are they even reading in school?
The pressure to do well is a large challenge facing many students today. These students spend countless hours studying, playing sports, and getting involved on campus and in the community to remain competitive college candidates. We’ve created a culture in which the value is placed on resume building and working toward the image of an ideal American student.
The focus on education and enrichment has shifted dramatically to focus on memorization and getting amazing grades, rather than learning about things students are really passionate about. This is creating negative connotations with learning and reading, as it is a center of stress and anxiety for many students.
Additionally, many students aren’t even reading their assigned reading for English class. According to a survey which 38 Nashoba students have responded to, 28% claim they have always completed their assigned reading, while only 31% read the assigned pages sometimes. Many students said the books they are reading in class don’t appeal to their interests or are difficult for them to read because they don’t connect with the text. Contrasting with these alarming statistics, 68% of students said they believe they would enjoy these books far more if they had chosen to read them outside of class. The concept of mandatory reading and the accompanying assignments and testing makes the reading seem like a chore, rather than an intriguing enrichment opportunity.
Another common thread across all high school students is a large lack of time. Sports and extracurricular activities consume substantial amounts of time from students’ days. Many students spend their whole day in the classroom and don’t get to go home until late in the evening because of sports, work, and other activities. They then have to worry about doing and completing hours of homework. Many nights, students don’t even get to consider sleeping until well past 11:00PM, and even 2:00am is a normal bedtime for many teens. With everything they have on their plates, the last thing students want to do late at night is pick up a book.
Social Media is also a huge contributing factor to the slump in teen reading. At Nashoba, 31% of the surveyed students said they spend their time using technology rather than reading. Students are spending a large majority of their free time scrolling through news feeds, editing Instagram photos, and watching Netflix. Teens are learning about the world through the use of technology, rather than literature. Whether students are binge watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. or scrolling through Twitter, time comes and goes with the blink of an eye. Many students aren’t even realizing how much time they’re spending on these activities.
Both the educational and publishing communities are wondering how they can make teens enjoy reading again. What can Nashoba do to encourage reading? Leave a comment below letting us know what you think!