The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

Why Reading Is Important

Staff illustration: Andrea Li

Telephone poles and people were the two main obstacles in my younger self’s quest to read as many books as possible — mainly because they were always in my way as I walked around with my nose buried in a novel. Although I have now found less hazardous ways to read, I continue to love and reap the rewards of consuming literature; among other benefits, books have provided me with endless entertainment, an extended attention span and elevated critical thinking skills. Yet reading is on the decline in the U.S. According to a Gallup News poll, adults in America read two to three fewer books per year in 2022 as compared to 2001-16. 

Perhaps the decline in the number of books read can simply be attributed to the ever-expanding schedules of Americans. Or perhaps it can be attributed to decreasing attention spans, as reported by the American Psychological Association

Regardless of the true causes driving a decline in reading for most people, my own experience affirms both of the aforementioned causes. After starting high school, I believed I had no time to read for leisure; at the same time, social media decreased my attention span and demotivated me to read. I found myself reading less and less. But soon enough, the consequences of spending all of my free time consuming short-form content on social media became apparent: I couldn’t focus long enough to read more than a paragraph at a time, let alone think deeply about anything. 

I am not alone in this experience, as a 2022 research paper by Cheng et. al demonstrates a negative correlation between social media and critical thinking skills. Meanwhile, reading requires and improves critical thinking skills. 

Indeed, the only practice that halted the alarming degradation of my attention span and critical thinking skills was reading more books. I started by reading 10 pages a day, then moving on to twenty, and so on. It was difficult at first, but rewarding — when I could focus closely and consistently on a book long enough to finish it, I could finally also focus enough to form my own opinions. 

Reading books, unlike social media posts, also encouraged me to deeply consider the meaning of what I was reading. Sitting down to flip pages of text implicitly allowed me to take more time to think, in contrast to the endless stream of information flashing past my fingertips on social media.  

Beyond boosting my ability to think deeply, reading has also vastly improved my writing skills, allowing me to emulate the styles of the numerous talented authors I’ve read. My writing skills have been endlessly valuable to me both in my personal life and in my academic career, specifically during the college admissions process. 

While there’s nothing wrong with using social media in moderation, the rise of these applications becomes an issue when paired with a decline in reading. Although people, especially high school students, might not think that they have time to read, reading is possibly the most crucial thing students — and in fact, all people — can do to improve not only college essays but also their lives. So, to nurture our inner bookworms, I encourage everyone to take a trip to the library and pick up a book, whether it’s a graphic novel or War and Peace, and try not to put it down.

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About the Contributor
Andrea Li, Print Editor
  Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 4 Favorite aspect of journalism: Working with other people on staff :) Interests outside of school: Reading, writing, cooking Class of 2024

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