While reading has become less popular in the United States, Sept. 6 encourages Americans to take this day to enjoy a new book. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.
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Sept. 6 is National Read a Book Day where people will have the opportunity to celebrate a day dedicated to books, but how many people will take this opportunity? Despite the benefits of reading, the percentage of the American population that regularly reads is declining.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center from 2016, 27% of American adults said they had not read a book in the past year. This number was only 19% in 2011. According to The Washington Post, this is likely due to the plethora of other activities available and has been accelerating since the popularity of television rapidly rose around 1955.
Chloe Janssen, sophomore management information systems major, said she believes this shift is happening because of the rising popularity and presence of the internet.
“With us being online and using social media, I feel like people do that instead of reading,” Janssen said.
Since information is accessible at anyone’s fingertips – thanks Google – it is exceedingly rare to look up questions or information in books.
Sally Childs-Helton, full professor in the library faculty and head of special collections, rare books and university archives, shared concerns about the shift to digital sources of information.
“Online the quality of information is uneven,” Childs-Helton said. “People are losing the ability to think critically. They can’t tell the difference between fact and opinion.”
According to a study done by Emory University, reading has many benefits to mental and emotional health. It also provides essential skills such as creativity, critical thinking and empathy. Childs-Helton echoed this when talking about her experience with reading.
“Reading is a doorway into other ways of thinking and other ways of living,” Childs-Helton said. “It feeds my creative life. It’s really a tool to inform life.”
The impact of reading is undeniable, but many struggle to fit it into their daily lives. With the hustle and bustle of modern culture, it makes sense that this is a challenge. Janssen offered advice for people trying to integrate reading into their busy lives.
“You have to have dedicated time for it,” Janssen said. “Write in your schedule and just know, ‘it’s time to read.’”
As well as not having enough time, some people cannot find books they are interested in. The endless options can be overwhelming. One positive aspect of technology is the resources provided to help people read. Erin Butler, sophomore psychology and French double major, shared tips for finding books to read.
“It helps if you’re interested in what the books are about,” Butler said. “You can even start with short stories. Use technology to help you.”
There are many websites such as Goodreads and StoryGraph that help curate a list of books for individual people. This can be a great place to start for people who need inspiration. On places like Amazon also give recommendations based on books someone has purchased in the past. Resources like public libraries and eBooks have removed even more barriers for reading. Tools such as the New York Times Best Sellers List, the NPR Best Books List and the Library Journal Annual List are available to provide even more inspiration.
Here is a list of recommendations made by Janssen, Butler and Childs-Helton:
- “And Now I Spill the Family Secrets” by Margaret Kimball
- “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang
- “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller
- “The Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz
- “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown
- “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman
- “The Night Circus” by Erin Morganstern
- “A Song for a New Day” by Sarah Pinsker
- “Where the Crawdad’s Sing” by Delia Owens
- “Transcend” by Scott Barry Kaufman
It may be challenging to read amongst distractions, but books are more accessible than ever. There are countless tools to find books and countless ways to read them. On this National Read a Book Day, many people may not read a book, but most people can. The resources and information that are now available could spark a new surge in reading, but only if people choose to take the opportunity.