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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Teens are reading fewer books. Here’s why that isn’t a crisis

Library
Children read books at a public library in Hong Kong.
(Alex Hofford / EPA/Shutterstock)

To the editor: As a high school student used to older relatives complaining about the decay of my generation, I found that Jeremey Adams’ op-ed article lamenting the decline among teens of “serious reading” struck a familiar note.

I love reading, but the glorification of it over other forms of entertainment (embodied in Adams’ brag that there are treasures only readers understand) needs to stop.

It often seems as if a hierarchy of the arts is enforced, with books at the top, and everything else far below. But books don’t have more intrinsic value than anything else. It’s the thought and work put into art that makes it valuable, not the medium that conveys it.

Reading “The Picture of Dorian Gray” changed my outlook on life, but so did the fantasy podcast “Rabbits.” The “Harry Potter” books gave me endless hours of entertainment with their beautiful world-building, but Minecraft allowed me literally to build my own. Does Adams really believe that by having this access to unbounded creativity -- as opposed to reading, say, “Fifty Shades of Grey” -- teens’ “imaginations will be stunted”?

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Lee Gutman, New York

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To the editor: Around 20 years ago, before the advent of social networks, I attended a dinner. Present was a professor of English from one of Los Angeles’ major universities.

Hearing he taught freshman English classes, I asked what the students were doing, and he replied that he had assigned them “Ordinary People” by Judith Guest. I asked if his students enjoyed the book.

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“Oh, they didn’t read it,” he replied. “I ran the movie for them.”

John H. Mayer, Camarillo

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To the editor: Adams notes the statistical drop in teen reading between the 1970s and today. My first thought is, teens are busier now than their counterparts from 50 years ago, with jobs and extracurricular activities crowding their non-school hours.

My second thought is that in the public library system where I work, the teen book collection boasts healthy circulation statistics. Publishers know profit potential when they see it: I happened to be a teenager in the 1970s, and young people today enjoy a much broader selection of reading material than I ever did.

We all need to curb our screen time. There are far too many loud cellphone conversations going on around us. Mothers and fathers stare at their palmed phones while their children attempt to engage them.

Maybe this is not so much a reading problem as it is a screen addiction problem.

Bethia Sheean-Wallace, Fullerton

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To the editor: Adams has identified the reason the world is going to hell. No one reads and no one thinks critically.

I take that back. We love to read Facebook and enjoy the selfies people post, like the one of the guy on the glacier in Greenland or the one of the guy zip-lining in the Amazon rain forest.

Yeah, those are classics.

Tony Wood, Claremont


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