By Claire Patnode, PAW Writer
A four day weekend for MEA. Two weeks off for spring break. With all these empty days, most high school students are left bored with no idea what to do with themselves. In earlier years, a story or the next book in their favorite series would have satisfied their needs. However, the modern day teenager seems to have found a replacement for books. They turn on the TV. Or their computer, phone, iPad, iPod, etc. The soft glow and the small vibration of our electronics fill our vacations. And yes, while the ease and relaxation we get is more comforting than a tedious day of classes, the consequences for ignoring your bookshelf are far more extreme. Although electronics are a quick and easy access to practically anything, they cause damage to our daily lives.
A study conducted by the American Heart Association’s 48th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention stated that a third of teenagers spend close to forty hours a week of screen time with seven percent spending closer to fifty hours. If that doesn’t seem concerning, this will. Christopher Bergland, writer for Psychology Today, reported that “in America, there are currently more televisions per home than human beings.” Why is that? Why is it that 42 percent of college graduates will never read a book again once they leave school? Why are books no longer our leisure activity choice?
For teenagers, the answer lies within the walls of their school. Reading within teens has decayed so dramatically because it is no longer voluntary. Reading for school is time-consuming and forced upon students. William Penn, philosopher and founder of the colony that later became Pennsylvania, once said “Much reading is an oppression of the mind, and extinguishes the natural candle, which is the reason of so many senseless scholars in the world.” The problem is, is that teenagers do not go about reading assigned books the same way they do for their own pleasure reading. Global Post (www.globalpost.com) reporter Alicia Anthony, who writes about reading and education, says “When you read for pleasure, the activity generally is something that you look forward to. Your engagement and interest level is high. On the contrary, when reading an assigned text, the reader often has little personal investment in the piece”
Not only is pleasure reading enjoyable, it also can improve one’s brain function on several different levels. Researchers at Emory University found that engaging one’s self in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves the brain’s functions, one of which is the gift of imagination. With novels and fiction being the most popular genres among teenagers, the stories help flex the imagination. Reading promotes an open mind and a zeal for adventure. Books can help teenagers succeed in chasing their dreams. Although most high school students live busy lives, expanded weekends and vacations are the perfect time to catch up on the new best sellers and to boost their brain capability. Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, whose brilliance gave us the personal computer, is an avid reader. “Whether I’m at the office, at home, or on the road, I always have a stack of books I am looking forward to reading.”
(Original photography by Claire Patnode)