The power of books

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The older I’ve gotten, I’ve begun to notice a trend — less and less students are reading for fun.

After every exam or test where phones weren’t allowed, I’d notice either my classmates blankly staring at a wall or taking a nap on their desk.

Even during Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) some of my friends have admitted to pretending to read while they’re scrolling through their Twitter timeline or just staring blankly at an open book.

I’d seen the statistics — currently less than half of Americans are reading even one book for fun every year — but it wasn’t until recently that I began to notice this in myself. I’ve always been an avid reader, but now I read only a few books for fun every year.

With Netflix, YouTube and video games that have hundreds of hours of content, books can be a hard sell. Our phones are a constant distraction, reminding us to check the latest tweet or Instagram post, often leading to spending endless hours scrolling. While we’re reading more short tweets and articles, these don’t compare to the experience when reading a book.

Books are the best form of media that opens up doors to far away places and minds of people we’ve never met. Because of this, reading books has been linked to having greater empathy — which is and a growing problem among Americans.

When reading a good book, the story feels personal. Most everyone had a book or series they liked as a kid — whether it was Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Junie B. Jones, The Magic Treehouse or Goosebumps.

If you remember back, you felt like you’re with these characters. It’s a temporary escape from reality. Books allow you to see different perspectives in a way that’s unlike any movie. A good book is hard to put down — we all know the feeling of saying “one more chapter” one chapter after another until the early hours of the morning.

However, there is good news. The young adult genre has grown tremendously is the past year, and has given teenagers endless options that haven’t been available to previous generations.

Getting books is easier than ever. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at a bookstore, Amazon and Barnes and Nobles has millions of books available online. With e-books, it’s possible to get a book instantly from anywhere.  

As long as I can remember I wanted to be an author when I grew up. That feeling never wavered — even as I realized that I’d likely need a steadier, easier to acquire job to make a living, being a professional author has always been an end goal for me. It’s what led me to being in newspaper, after I decided journalism and creative writing were the only classes relevant to my career offered at school.

Even as we’re constantly surrounded by other forms of more engaging entertainment, it’s important to remember the value of books.

While I may not read as much as I used to — one year in middle school I read over 100 books — books will always play an important role in my life. Books were my friends when I had none. Whenever I went through a period of struggle in my life, books were my escape.

When you find a good book, it’s possible to have that love of reading again. With AP classes and extracurricular activities it can be hard to find time to devote to reading, but I can guarantee that carving out 20 minutes each night to read a book is well worth it. It may take just take a few pages to recapture the love of reading.

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