The Greatest Escape

For Jessica Epperson and Matt Kelly, both seniors at Bonanza High School, reading is a way to break away from reality and live life in another time and place.

But students who enjoy reading the way Epperson and Kelly do seem tougher to come by these days. Many kids would rather use Spark Notes than actually read the book they are assigned at school.

One Las Vegas librarian blames the trend on modern media and teens’ inability to stay on task.

Helen Money, a librarian at Bonanza, says that students don’t enjoy reading anymore because they have small attention spans. She says that many high school boys have admitted that they never have read an entire book.

When it comes to schoolwork, experts say that many students have been slacking off. They don’t want to put in the time or effort to read and actually understand and analyze the text.

Fritz Mast, an English literature and composition advanced placement teacher, is forced to give out quizzes practically every day to make sure his students are reading their assignments. Mast mostly blames this dilemma on the “speed of the society.”

For example, why take stairs when there’s an elevator around the corner? Why cook using the oven when the microwave is on the counter? Why read a book when the movie version is in the DVD player?

Investing time and effort in reading is essential to future success, though, Mast says.

“Reading is the one thing you must know to do anything and everything,” Mast says.

Every subject in school requires reading, whether it be math, chemistry or history. Especially in English class, those who don’t read are in trouble, because “bad writing is a symptom of poor reading skills,” Mast says. Reading is not only a necessity for school, it’s a necessity for life.

For those who do find reading fun, the past few years have been exciting.

With the success of the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling and the popularity of the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer, teen readers have been enjoying amazing stories. Other favorite books of students who do read include “Song of the Sparrow,” by Lisa Ann Sandell; “Killing Mr. Griffin,” by Lois Duncan; and “The Watchers,” by Dean Koontz.

“I like to put myself in the character’s shoes and pretend it’s me,” Kelly says.

Not only do students like to live through text, they enjoy the break of getting lost in a book. Epperson thinks of reading as “an escape where you can visit another world and not have to worry about life for a little while.”

Fortunately, Mast says, there are a few solutions to reverse the trend.

Those who are read to as children are more likely to love books and read them all their lives, but bedtime stories aren’t exactly what teenagers want from their parents.

One reason students might not read as much is because they don’t have the spare money to buy a book or the transportation to borrow one from the public library. Little do they know, they’re closer than they think. There is an accessible library right down the hallway of their school. Most students don’t realize that the same “in” books from the local Borders or Barnes & Noble are sitting on the shelves of their school library.

Money says that only 20 percent of the books checked out from her library are for pleasure. The rest are for mandatory research or reference.

Mast also suggests a schoolwide reading program that would allow kids to read during school, which would help them all become better students.

In the meantime, consider Epperson’s advice: “Once you read a good book, share it. Don’t keep it to yourself.”

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