The Decline of Extensive Reading and Why It’s Worrying

Reading, long-form reading that goes beyond small articles or Facebook posts, is of incredible importance, and reading is in decline (see, among other studies and articles, Sharp Decline in Children Reading for Pleasure, Survey Finds).

Reading of the aforementioned kind allows for one to juggle many things in one’s head at the same time, analyze a text, learn substantial new things, and more. A good example of an advantage of reading is that of learning languages. Professor Dr. Alexander Arguelles discusses the current status of reading today as well as its relation to polyglottery and polyliteracy in this video.

But, even I, a voracious reader and one who was born into the internet age, find myself reading less these days. Not only that, but I also find reading to be more difficult. Excluding the first few sentences, during the first five or so pages, in the case of a novel or light academic work, I struggle to focus and “get into it”, which is something I had not struggled with until the last few years. Also, because the bulk of my reading today is on screens, I struggle to even keep my eyes on the text when I have a physical book or relatively large electronic text. Like my eyes wander on a computer or tablet or phone to another page or app, my eyes wander from the page and my mind wanders from the material. Now, I will say that despite how bad I make this sound, it really is not all that common or extreme. Moreover, I still read a book every few days, and I would say that much of my slowing in reading is from having already read so many classic texts, among other things not related to my new-found struggles.

The hard truth is that we as a society must continue reading books of substantial size, and children and adults alike are beginning not to read as such, for pleasure or otherwise. In fact, even when instructed to in school, children often do not read, commonly opting out for notes or some other alternative. Clearly, with the fairly recent introduction of other options – audio, video, the internet – reading is expected to decline, but with so many reading virtually nothing at all, we clearly have a problem, one we should probably address.