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Bookworms in the age of social media Local teens express continued appreciation for reading

September 29, 2018

A study released last month indicates that the number of teenagers in the country who read books in the 1970s was higher than it is today. Somerset County youths expressed varying opinions on the matter.

One in three American teens fell short of picking up a book or magazine of their own choice in 2016, according to research that appeared in the American Journal of Psychology. They spend an average of six hours online, texting and on social media. The study collected data from a University of Michigan-run survey project, “Monitoring the Future,” which has kept track of high school trends since the 1970s.

In recent years, less than 20 percent of U.S. teens report reading a book, magazine or newspaper daily for pleasure. The Daily American approached a number of students at Rockwood Area School District, who offered their opinions on reading.

Zoey Delaney, a 15-year-old sophomore, said she sometimes checks books out of the library whenever she sees an interesting new one.

“I read books frequently whenever I have free time. I rarely read newspapers and magazines,” Delaney said. “I would rather read a book than spend time on my phone. I am an avid reader and find more interest in the current story I am reading than apps on my phone. I talk about books to my friends who also enjoy books. If my friend does not read as often as me, we rarely talk about books.”

The study’s lead author, Jean M. Twenge, told the American Psychological Association that teens trended toward online reading.

“In the mid-2010s, the average American 12th-grader reported spending approximately two hours a day texting, just over two hours a day on the internet — which included gaming — and just under two hours a day on social media,” Twenge said in an article published on the website. “That’s a total of about six hours per day on just three digital media activities during their leisure time.”

Keaton Engle, a 17-year-old senior, said she reads books daily. She reads newspapers every morning with coffee. Engle picks up magazines once a week. She said the online sources can sometimes be a useful supplement to traditional media and publications.

“Snapchat News does a great job of making news look appealing, and keeping the explanations short and simple while still being informational,” Engle said.

Other students at the school said they read books frequently. Some said it was hard to find the time to do so, with one student preferring to be outdoors. Newspapers vary in popularity among the teenagers polled by the newspaper, but they do keep up with the sports section of the publication on Facebook.

Still, teenagers like Natalie King, 17, said they love the immersive experience found in books. She constantly reads.

“I would much rather read a book than be on my phone because I love to be sucked into a world that someone else created,” King said. “I am an avid reader and always will be.”

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