Why do we read less as we get older?

There are plenty of benefits to reading for leisure. Some see it as an escape, while others see it as a tool to advance their own learning and understanding.

“When you are reading for fun it, you are taking time for yourself to do something completely unrelated to other things you are doing,” said DePaul sophomore Priya Fink. “When you read a book, it takes you into a completely different world, so it’s kind of like a break.”

Reading can also be a calming experience. 

“I read books to remind me of my childhood and to destress,” said Nathalie Host, a journalism major at DePaul. 

Students at DePaul University are quite busy with their lives as many not only have full course loads, but they also have other commitments like jobs, both part-time and full-time. This can prevent students from having the opportunity to make time for reading while other distraction can get in the way. 

According to John Shanahan, associate dean and director of Liberal Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, social media and the internet have led to reading becoming less analytic and more oriented to short passages instead of longer, more deeper reading. 

“In the world that students now have grown up in…they read all the time,” he said. “But what they’re reading is short bursts of text messages, tiny little memes, newspaper articles, so the amount of words passing their faces can be a lot, but none of it is demanding much cognitive attention. 

Shanahan discussed the benefits of reading novels and why they can help students open their minds and learn. 

“Look at the diminishing amount of empathy we have around us,” he said. “We have people who treat each other like cardboard cutouts. If you’re not used to being deep inside someone else’s mind, the kinds of things reading novels and fiction mean to do, look what we get? We get superficial people who treat each other like they’re players in video games. I do worry over that.”

One of the main issues for students can also be workload. 

“There is so much going on when you are in college and you are a full time student plus if you have a job or extracurriculars you don’t really have enough time for yourself,” Hoste said. “I barely have time to eat Monday-Thursdays. I eat breakfast and I get home at 10:30.”

Fink had a similar thought process as well.

“With all the technology and everything, that’s people’s go-to before books,” she said. “They are like an old fashioned thing.”

Shanahan spoke of different ways students can try to increase the amount of reading they do, regardless of how heavy of a schedule they have.  

 “To me, the only strategy would be setting aside some kind of time when you deliberately know [to read],” he said. “I mean this in the same way you’re going to the gym or doing meditation or doing yoga. Read a novel. Read a book. Something that is complex. Something that will stress you.”

Beyond that, focusing on not staring at the screen can also help students make more time to read. 

“We are all staring at our phones too much,” Shanahan said. “There are definitely times where I realize I have just scrolled for 45 minutes.”

Hoste spoke of other strategies students can employ to increase their reading time. 

“Take a day to be by yourself – even if it’s like three hours – put on a face mask, read a book, take self-care,” she said. “That way you get that in and you are also destressing.” 

Reading is something that can help students advance themselves and get away from the stresses of daily life. It is imperative that students take advantage of the knowledge available to them.