The Dangers of Not Reading

Matt Fish
5 min readApr 15, 2021
School Girl with Book in front of natural rustic red brick background holding book up to her face.

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”

— Walt Disney

The decline in a collective appetite for reading, especially in the United States, is not a new phenomenon.

As per the New Yorker’s Caleb Crain, the U.S. Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey revealed that between 2003 and 2016, the time that the average American devoted to daily reading for personal interest sank from 0.36 hours to 0.29 hours.

This decrease comes in spite of the fact that the average American spent 1.48 hours absorbing a text each time they read, up from 1.39 in 2003. Overall, only 19.5% of the U.S. population was reading at all in 2016, a startling drop from 2003’s figure of 26.3%.

The consequences of someone’s allergy to reading, whether they’re in school or the workforce, are all too apparent if you look close enough.

From economic earning power (or lack thereof) to its direct link to mass incarceration numbers, a person’s reading level can be an accurate predictor of success or failure down the line. Yes, learning disorders like dyslexia and other limitations are impactful variables, but they don’t account for an entire nation’s unwillingness to open a book regularly.

The detractors are as ubiquitous as they are obvious: the internet and, to a startling degree, television.

Crain elaborates on this point in his New Yorker piece:

“Television, rather than the Internet, likely remains the primary force distracting Americans from books. The proportion of the American population that watches TV must have hit a ceiling some time ago; in the years studied by the American Time Use Survey, it’s very stable, at a plateau of about eighty percent — roughly four times greater than the proportion of Americans who read. But America’s average TV time is still rising, because TV watchers are, incredibly, watching more and more of it, the quantity rising from 3.28 hours in 2003 to 3.45 hours in 2016.”

In short, the screen media boom, particularly among kids and teens, is severely cutting into any potential reading time. A Washington Post report put the average teen’s daily…

Matt Fish

Writer, content creator, music obsessive, DJ, currently sitting down.