According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, “less than 20 percent of U.S. teens report reading a book, magazine or newspaper daily for pleasure, while more than 80 percent say they use social media every day.”
These results are not surprising due to the increase of technological distractions like video games or social media. Many teenagers spend their free time staring into to bright, flashing screens, rather than into the dull pages of a book. However, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, booksellers experienced an unforeseen increase in sales unlike many other industries. In 2020, the trade or consumer book industry saw a 9.7% increase as sales were up more than 20%. Because of lockdowns, people found themselves at home, pursuing new interests or revisiting old hobbies. The dusty covers of forgotten books were rediscovered as some searched for ways to occupy their time. Consequently, a growing number of electronic-addicted teens were reintroduced to the thrill of book reading.
Many book readers at HBA share a similar reason behind their love for books: escapism. Sophomore Ashley Campbell describes reading as “a nice, relaxed getaway.” Freshman Sage Shiroma had a similar take. “I enjoy reading because books transport me to another world. While I read, I tend to change the words into pictures, so that way I can watch the book like a movie,” he said.
English teacher David McElrath, an avid reader since late middle school, describes himself as “the kind of kid who would pretty much be happy sitting in a corner with a book for hours and hours on end.” Despite having traveled extensively in his life, he continues to enjoys exploring new places through books. McElrath stated, “There’s something about going to a place in literature that’s honestly a bit of a different experience even then going there physically. There’s certain things about the written word that can capture certain fields or places that I’ll never get to experience.”
High school librarian Arlene Huster began her career as an elementary school librarian because of her love of reading stories aloud to children in hopes of sparking their interest in books. “Books can open your mind and heart to new experiences and ideas you may not ever have the chance to have in your life. I especially love when a book can give me insight into a historical event or the experiences of people in a different time or culture,” she said.
According to Huster, circulation—the number of books checked out from our school’s library—has increased from both the print collection and e-book collection. More specifically, print book circulation doubled in the 2020-21 school year in comparison to 2019-20. She explained that this significant increase is partly due to the introduction of Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) periods and also the cancellation of many activities, which gives students more free time outside of school.
While social media has often been blamed for keeping people away from books, the popularity of #BookTok on TikTok has actually increased readership for some. #BookTok began as a way for viewers to easily find TikTok videos pertaining to books. The term became more widely known as more teens gained interest in the trending hashtag. Books like The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart became #BookTok regulars due to their numerous recommendations. Companies have caught on to the growing virtual community of young book readers, and these popular books can be found in a dedicated section at well-known bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
Although she is not entirely familiar with the #BookTok trend, Campbell enjoys the fact that people are using their platform to promote different stories. “It makes it easier for people to find a book with that particular vibe they’re looking for, which is convenient, and it’s always nice to hear someone talk about something they like,” she said. Senior Emma Chun, a current #BookTok viewer, shared a similar experience when coming across new books on her TikTok For You page. She believes that these popular books were worth the “hype” and helped expand her interests in different genres.
Similarly, junior Jordy Davenport is a participant in an online book exchange through Instagram Stories. Members hear about the favorite books of other readers within their community of Instagram followers, who reach out by replying to a Story.
Despite the increased usage of technology, a love for paper books remains strong in the reading community. Junior Lyndsy Mashino said, “I prefer books because I like being able to feel the physical pages and see the book put together because then you can see more depth in the cover art. There is also more satisfaction in being able to see your progress through the book.” Campbell also agreed, “I prefer paper books. Ebooks hurt my eyes, and it’s not the same. With real books you get the sound of the page turning and the comforting feeling of the book in your hands.”
Huster, on the other hand, remains impartial as she regularly uses both. “I like the ‘experience’ of a physical book better but the ‘convenience’ of an ebook (you can get a new book any time and it’s easier to carry around),” she stated.
Whether it be a physical or digital book, freshman Sam Lim offers this advice to students who want to develop a reading habit: Read 10 minutes of a book every night before you go to bed. Campbell also suggested the use of audiobooks through Youtube or Audible, which easily allows multitasking.
“If you say that you don’t have time to read books, the problem is not whether or not you can read or like to read. The problem is what you value to do with your time,” McElrath said. “The thing that makes a difference is to find just one book, just one story that really captures your attention… that sort of opens your mind to the possibilities of reading to all the different worlds and discoveries that are out there captured in the written word. You have time. The question is what you spend it on.”
Megan Lee started a book review blog—titled M & M’s Library—with a fellow bookworm, Marissa Watanabe. If you’re looking for book recommendations, this is a great place to start.