Monday, September 12, 2016

My Reading for Pleasure Class Responds to The New Yorker

I recently read an article on Twitter (where I generally get most of my info) from The New Yorker entitled “Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?” by David Denby.

I was irritated from the first paragraph: “A common sight in malls, in pizza parlors, in Starbucks, and wherever else American teens hang out: three or four kids, hooded, gathered around a table, leaning over like monks or druids, their eyes fastened to the smartphones held in front of them. The phones, converging at the center of the table, come close to touching. The teens are making a communion of a sort. Looking at them, you can envy their happiness. You can also find yourself wishing them immersed in a different kind of happiness—in a superb book or a series of books, in the reading obsession itself! You should probably keep on wishing.”

“Monks or druids”? So, the implication is teens are praying to their device or the device is holy to them? I know teens are attached to their device, but I doubt any of them would appreciate the simile.

Who’s to say teens aren’t reading on their devices? I read all the time on mine. Maybe it’s not a “superb book or series,” but I do read on my device. “You should probably keep wishing” especially pisses me off. It’s so disdainful and patronizing toward the very people Denby writes about. Classic case of an adult writing about teens and yet completely missing the mark on who they are as actual people!

So, being the pot stirrer I am, I thought I’d share the article with the 28 teens in my Reading for Pleasure class. Wow, those were some angry people. I told them they could leave me comments in Google Classroom. Below, I copied and pasted their comments with minimal revisions. Since they were informal comments, I didn’t specify “English rules.”

¨If kids are avoiding eye contact, they are avoiding books even more¨ Two separate things...... just saying.” –Jackson

“I still read.” –Joshua

“There are two reading for pleasure hours in this school! If kids didn't want to read then why would they sign up for these classes? MAYBEEE if there wasn't as much homework and stress put on our grades then we would read more. The generation that wrote this article is the same generation that is putting the stress onto us to have jobs, get perfect grades, be the perfect person, finish all of our homework! These people have no place to say that we don't read when they don't give us time to read. *drop the mic*” –Blaine

“We definitely read. But I feel as though it's not necessarily stereotyped into like 'the nerdy girl reads' or 'the moody, emo kid reads'. It's more like the people who those wouldn't expect. And what the heck does eye contact have to do with reading more? There is no correlation. I don't usually make eye contact and I have five books in my bag right now. And personally I happen to enjoy the scent of old books. It makes me think of winter nights and hot cocoa. Also, this article was made in February. I'm less angered knowing that this is at least 2-3 months old. But still angered.” –Chloe

“I think reading is needed at times to calm the mind. Many teens don't read as much as we're supposed to. I understand that teens are on their phones way more than reading books or magazines, because they are into the ‘it,’ thing. Many parents are addicted to their phones also, reading helps you learn new words, and compare to other people's problems to yours. Reading is important for everyone and not just on cell phones.” –Emily

“The sad thing is that a lot of people not just teens. Adults and kids as well so it's not only us teens but a few people now a days so they can’t blame us. I love reading but I don't like being forced to read and that is why most teens have strayed from book life. Then those of us have jobs and we have to worry about grade and homework to we don't get much time to read anymore.” –Cameron

“Yes! I believe that there are a wide majority of teens who are not engaged in reading nowadays. HOWEVER, the one thing that killed the idea of reading as a hobby was when we were obligated to finish a novel that was chosen by our teacher. Contrary to popular belief, reading is an excellent way to free our minds and travel to an alternate world where we envision ourselves as a character. It allows us to get away from the dark places that absorb the world and it's also a great way to pass the time.” --Zack

“alright buddy. i am a teenage girl who doesn’t care about her clothes. i don’t care what a book smells like, i care about what is written and we are busy. i work 20 hours a week plus extra curricular activities that practice almost every day plus the extra clubs and i have still have time to read almost a book every couple of weeks. my mother asks me for books because she knows i have read more and i know what’s good. and not just the young adult either. I’ve read classics and nonfiction and i do it on my own will. those who don’t read just haven’t found what they like.” –Karstin

“^ true. especially when the funds we receive from said jobs (usually 2-3 3-4 of them at once) are barely enough to afford rent and have practically none left over to eat LET ALONE to buy a book.” –Chloe responding to Karstin

“My first thought is do adults read seriously anymore because the only time i see my dad reading anything is either when its a Facebook post, a text, or a email? The eye contact thing also really irks me how do those relate just because I'm shy doesn't mean I don't read. I read because I want to and there is something different about reading it takes you to a whole other side of reality. I took reading for pleasure this year to finally to get the time and chance to explore different books and broaden my horizon and no there isn't assigned reading I do it because I would like too.” --Hannah

“I feel like this is demeaning towards kids. What you are reading doesn't matter. If it has a cover and a back and words in between, it's a book. What I read helps me deal with the real world, and I am sorry that it is not considered 'a real book' but in my opinion it is more real than anything the older generations would consider to be 'a real book.’” --Ashtyn

“Teens read just as much as any elementary student may! Reading is a way in which any teenager can let their mind wander into an extraordinary adventure. Age doesn't dictate how much a person reads, or how much a person should read, and it's unfair to assume that teens don't appreciate reading anymore. I don't read because I am told to, I read because I enjoy it! Also, just because some teens may not necessarily be as social as others, it doesn't mean that they don't enjoy reading just as much as anybody else!” --Kali

“i love reading and their is nothing wrong with joining sports or clubs i am pretty sure there are people out there who can read at least once a week if not once a day. I have a phone too and i go and check my social networks, but i don't stare at my phone waiting for someone to post something every ten seconds. I mean my mom has four kids and she still manages to get most of the stuff she wants done completed.” –Mackenzie

“I would like to disagree I know many kids who love to read for fun and rather read than do outdoor activities. I love to read book and then there are websites on the internet that you can read books on. HELLO E-BOOKS! Yes we are all busy but there are many of us who will pick up and book and read 20 minutes into it. Also I would like to point out the sexist accusations. Maybe I'm a girl who does sports or a video gamer. Then there might be some boys who care about their friendships. Also I would like to point out we have a harder time reading because some of us go to school 7 hours and then have homework an hour for each class which is 7 HOURS and not to mention I have a job where I work 5-6 hours. Then I have band in the morning which I have to wake up at 5 in the morning. Even though I have school, band, and work I still read at least a couple times a week which is a lot more than some adults.” –Kailee

“I find it funny that this author claims that teenagers do not read when it can be proven with several people that this claim is untrue. The reality of the matter is that though the majority may not be engrossed in reading, there are the minority who still find enjoyment in books. The idea of placing ALL teenagers into one category is simply ridiculous and infuriating.
Age should not dictate how much a person reads or what a person reads. Naturally, older generations will read different literary works than what we read in the present day.
This article simply is the opinion of a entitled, pretentious, and ignorant man. To claim that ALL teenagers are focused on social media over reading is a statement that has no factual basis but rather is just based on his personal and quite frankly, stupid opinion.
I am a firm believer that it is easier for someone to make assumptions of others than taking a hard look at themselves. If they did, they would see they are throwing stones when they live in a glass house. There were people in his generation who didn't read so he can't act like it's just our generation who has starting this trend. This trend has been around longer than we have and it's blatantly insulting to add this false claim to the many others surrounding our generation.
In conclusion, I believe that this author is severely misguided and needs to open his eyes and take a look around rather than assume and therefore, make false statements.
You know what they say about when you ‘assume things.’
That is all.” –Megan

There are so many other sentences from the article that bothered me, but I’m not a teen. I thought it best to let them speak for themselves.

I will say while Denby focuses on teens, I wonder how many adults actually read for pleasure, since he seems fixated by the “joy” aspect. But, it is always so much easier to blame those damn teenagers and try to remove the splinters from their eyes rather than remove the logs from the eyes of our own generations. 


  1. You're right...teens are an easy target for "superior" adults who don't bother to ask and listen. I'm proud of your students and their insights

  2. You're right...teens are an easy target for "superior" adults who don't bother to ask and listen. I'm proud of your students and their insights