“I’ve never read a book”

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In a bookshop this afternoon I overhead a conversation between two teen girls as they approached the music book section. It went something like this:

Girl 1 – Do you think it is around here?

Girl 2 – I don’t know, I have never been here.

Girl 1 – Really?

Girl 2 – I don’t read books.

Girl 1 – Really?  Why not?

Girl 2 – I’m not interested.  (short pause) Well, I’ve read 2 books…

Unfortunately I don’t know if she said what those two books were as the girls moved away and I couldn’t hear them anymore.

Maybe some kids are not lucky enough to be read bed time stories or get books as gifts, but surely they are still learning literature and reading books in school. Or does that not happen anymore?

How can a 15-16 year old girl never have read a book? I know that compared to when I was a child there are many more sources of entertainment – computers, computer games, (spending the day) instant messaging friends and so on, but I cannot imagine how it is possible to go through those first years of life without books…

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11 thoughts on ““I’ve never read a book”

      • As a former English Intervention Teacher, I can tell you that students in high school are still assigned books to read…. Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, The Grapes of Wrath, The House on Mango Street, just to name a few. The key word here is “assigned”.
        Unfortunately I witnessed over a period of 20 years students not reading assigned books. Many teachers practice what I call Guided Reading. For each chapter of a book, a series of questions are prepared that students must answer to help them comprehend the book. For various reasons, (this topic would fill several blogs) some students just do not read. They fill in the answers to the questions in class as they are discussed.
        So the girl you overheard in the bookstore very likely has never read a book. Bloggers, for the most part, I am guessing are educated people. Since they are writers, they are most definitely readers. Not everyone is. Not every student goes home to a house with plenty of reading material. Most of the students I worked with did not receive a daily newspaper or any magazines in their home. Reading is not valued in these homes and the results are obvious and disconcerting.
        While I worked with developmentally disabled students and students with learning disabilities within a regular English class, there were just as many at-risk readers who did not have the reading skills to be able to read most of the material in high school textbooks. The reasons for this could fill quite a few books.

        • Thank you so much for the background on reading assignments and teaching methods, you have clarified that question for me.

          I totally understand and agree with your point that there are homes where reading is not a priority due to educational, financial or other reasons and I didn’t mean my commentary as a criticism of that. But as this is an issue I had not considered before I couldn’t help being shocked and surprised by the girl’s comment (especially as she sounded so confident when she said it).

          I’m grateful that you shared your teaching experience and helped me learn too!

  1. Good observation. I think this issue is universal. And it doesn’t have to do with girls alone. I believe most people (both sexes) consider reading as wasteful way to spend their time especially as there are more engaging way nowadays. Another thing is family background. It plays its own part.

  2. The global pace of living is much faster nowadays and books compete with many other sources of entertainment and/or information. I agree that in many cases family background has a role to play but I think schooling methods (as mentioned by Life in the 50’s…) as well as changed expectations play their part too.

  3. I sure hope the other girl tried to convince her friend to read Hunger Games or something. Thank God she didn’t say, “Yeah, me neither. I told you they don’t have video games in here.”

  4. You are so right lena…. when I grew up there were books. There was tv (limited) and music. There are so many other forms of entertainment to compete for time in today’s world. It is becoming a rarity to find young people who still read for pleasure. They almost always come from families where there are stacks of books available and mom and dad model reading. My youngest daughter was made fun of in school because she always had a book to read during study hall It is a different world.
    I also agree that schools share the blame. Some have lowered their expectations … and that is never good.

  5. It is quite surprising really. But I really think hard copy books are no longer in vogue among young people. These days, we’ve got audio lessons, video tutorials, software tutors and a whole lot of mediums for transfer of information and learning. Time changes… 🙂

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