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  • Writer's picturePhilip Martin

Why (and What) High Schoolers Should Read

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

As a full time high school teacher I've come to expect the groans when I give a reading assignment and, though it's taken me a bit longer, the naive complaints about the world's greatest pieces of literature (like, "To Kill a Mockingbird is soooo boring!"). Recently I asked why this was the case, just to see if we could critically think to a root cause.

One student was definitive in his response: students hate reading because schools make them read; in other words, it is teenage rebellion to hate what adults force you do to.

Now while there may be a gleam of truth in that, I replied by asking if video games and Netflix would be assigned by teachers more often, then would students rebel against those things? I didn't think so. There's nothing wrong with video games or Netflix; though, of course, all things in balance.

I think two things are primarily to blame for this phenomenon. First, it is simply easier (more passive) to be entertained elsewhere (aka TV). Reading takes effort (more active) to begin or "enter in" to the world being presented to you, like having to ride a bike up a short hill to get to a friend's house. Second, teenagers are the archetype of caring what other people think, and if people think you like to read, well, you might be seen as weird or, even worse, trying.

However, no matter the psychological roots of teenage refusal to read (and sometimes obstinately so), the benefits of regular reading are impossible to ignore.

According to, these include:

- Increased vocabulary

- Increased comprehension

- Stress reduction

- Lessening of symptoms of depression

- Increased brain activity

However, for the purposes of this website, more reading simply means this: A HIGHER ACT SCORE! I'm not saying you or your child need to read a novel a day or a week. I'm not saying that you need to be reading "Macbeth" or The Lord of the Rings on your weekends. But, I am saying that you need to be reading something, anything. It can be a magazine that you like, or a book about something you like, or whatever. Find something (in print) to read, and read a little every day or a bit every week. The effect will be a good one!

If you're a parent wondering why your son or daughter isn't raptured by a library, consider buying a magazine subscription for your child about something he or she is interested in. In my house growing up, I loved fishing, and so did my Dad. He always kept a magazine around called "Saltwater Sportsman" for himself, but I could usually be found with the latest issue, reading about some new boat or gear or hot fishing spot.

The best ACT prep is to go back and time and have your son or daughter read more. However, that is of course not a possibility. Try working with them where they are; it's not too late to pick up a reading habit, but it will probably begin with an area of interest.


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