Reading logs and book clubs were the center of language arts classes in the elementary school days. Now, it’s harder to persuade adults into reading than it is children, but why? The benefits of reading greatly increase as we get older, so continuing the habit into adulthood is more important than ever.
It comes as no surprise that social media impacts reading as an adult. Although we read more on online forums like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, these passages are short and far less analytical— they require little cognitive attention.
On top of the inability to focus on longer and deeper readings, people, especially students, have a wide variety of commitments that push their time for reading aside. Reading requires time, and I will be the first to admit I have spent 45 minutes scrolling TikTok when I could have easily used that time to pick up a new book.
Reality vs Imagination
When you are young, you also have the uncanny ability to erase the line between reality and pretend. Whether you played house as a kid, had a pretend kitchen, or made food out of mud in the backyard, it was always easier to disconnect from reality. For a child, opening the first page of a Magic Tree House book and immediately finding themselves in the story is easy to do because of that thin, almost non-existent line between reality and fiction. Or, for example, when reading Mary Poppins, a child may visualize themselves as one of the characters dancing in the park.
A child’s imagination can contribute to their love of reading fantasy more so than an adult. Francine Prose, author of a New York Times article entitled Is It Harder to Be Transported By a Book as You Get Older put it best. Children ‘soak’ into the story while adults ‘dip’ and cross reference everything they read. When adults read, they are comparing two characters from a different book rather than imagining themselves as one.
Although reading can help improve brain function, many adults don’t see the point of reading now. Once you are out of school and no longer have a test on a 15-chapter novel, you stop. Perhaps people who don’t read as adults never got to pick what they wanted to read in school, which in turn drove them away from the hobby after their formative years. Furthermore, the majority of books written now have a movie alongside it, which allows people to think, “Why read if I can see the movie?”
I’m sure there are a million more reasons as to why adults read less at an older age than at a younger age. Each individual has their own reasoning, but as we get older, reading to hold brain function is vital. It can reduce stress, enhance decision making, and even possibly delay dementia. It’s never too late to pick up a book, so why wait?