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Teens are still reading books

September 6, 2018 GMT

I was driving to Lincoln the other day, and I had my radio tuned to an Omaha station I normally enjoy. On this day, though, the deejay decided to ruin my listening enjoyment by sharing a statistic about teenage reading percentages.

According to her, and whatever site she happened to be using to acquire this fact, less than 20 percent of American teenagers regularly read books, yet well over 80 percent of them use social media sites on their phones every day. While this sad fact didn’t completely surprise me, the deejay’s cavalier attitude did.

Basically, she gave an on-air equivalent of a shoulder shrug because she laughingly, and quite dismissively, said something about it being simply a sign of our times. Since I was alone in the car at the time, I took it upon myself to yell, “Well, it shouldn’t be!” I believe I probably added a few more comments that don’t bear repeating here, but let’s just say that she really got me steamed up.

Personally, I don’t quite believe the statistic she threw out. Yes, I do think that teenagers spend far too much time on their “smart” phones (devices that are making their users increasingly less smart), but I also know many teenagers who regularly read. Let’s remember that I am a high school teacher; I literally spend my days surrounded by teenagers, and I see enough of them carrying their own reading books to know that a good number of them are regular readers.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more teenagers carrying around books again — actual books! There are also times that I see kids reading books they have downloaded on their phones or other devices.

While I would prefer to see them reading from a real book for many different reasons, I’m thrilled to see them doing some true reading instead of playing video games or looking at inane memes, tweets, gifs, etcetera ad nauseam.

Another problem I had with the statistic is that there wasn’t a comparison to past teenagers included. Are we to assume that the teenagers of the 80’s, which would be my generation, experienced a higher percentage of book readers? I was there, and I don’t recall other students caring about books or reading like I did. I seriously doubt that the percentage of book readers would have been substantially higher than the 20 percent in the current statistic; however, this piece of the larger picture was not provided by the chuckling deejay.

So, what was it that really angered me about the statistic the deejay shared? Nothing, really. Unfortunately, I’m used to the fact that people aren’t the readers I’d like to see them be.

Instead, it was the attitude that came across from the deejay’s radio booth to the interior of my car. It was an attitude that implied that reading books isn’t important anymore, and that’s an attitude I simply can’t tolerate or support.

Perhaps I should share a statistic with her about the declining number of radio listeners. After all, it is a “sign of our times” — to use her words again — that more and more people are using satellite radio or simply playing music they’ve downloaded onto their phones through their vehicle’s stereo system. I bet she wouldn’t find that statistic too humorous.

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Contact Marshall at tamreader@gmail.com. This month’s reading selection is “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas.