According to surveys conducted by The National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2022, the rates at which teenagers read for fun have declined even further nationwide since 2019. That year, the NAEP determined that the number of 8th-graders who read recreationally, regardless of how well they performed in school overall, was the lowest since 1984. We’d like to challenge you to be an agent of change when it comes to falling reading rates.

Most students are expected to read at least a couple of books for their English classes each year, but those are frequently the only books that students read. Students are busy people—between homework, sports, after-school clubs, part-time jobs and college prep, teenagers often have limited amounts of free time. In that free time, they’re more likely to turn to their phone or laptop than a book. However, Strategies For College strongly encourages students to sometimes consider reading as an alternative to scrolling through TikTok or binging the latest show on Netflix.

There are many benefits to be gained from reading your own books instead of just what is required for school. Reading makes you a better student—not just in your English classes but in all aspects of your academic life.

Reading can increase your attention span and improve your memory, so you’re able to concentrate for longer periods of time without getting distracted. You can make the most of your study sessions, whether you’re memorizing Spanish vocab words or the different parts of the brain.

Reading can improve your attention to detail, which is especially helpful for the math and science sections of the SAT/ACT exams. Many of the questions in these exams are written out—rather than presented as an equation—for the specific purpose of testing a student’s reading comprehension and their math skills simultaneously. For example, here is a list of 15 sample word problems from the SAT that students often misread and therefore answer incorrectly.

Reading can widen your perspective of the world so you can make connections between separate subjects. It can provide a broader historical and cultural context for all of your classes regardless of whether you immediately associate those subjects with reading. In that vein, reading can also make you a more impressive candidate for certain colleges because admissions officers will see you as someone who can contribute to their school community on a more productive and creative level than other students. Interdisciplinary studies are becoming increasingly popular at colleges. Even if you plan on studying a STEM field, excelling in humanities at the same time will show admissions that you have a diverse approach to your academic studies.

Once in college, reading can make your Gen Ed classes easier, so you can complete these requirements more quickly and focus on your degree-specific courses sooner.

Reading also provides benefits that can improve a person’s overall quality of life outside of the classroom.

Reading can help you understand the perspectives and experiences of other people whose lives are different from yours; it can also help you to feel less alone by reading about people who are going through the same struggles as you. It develops your capacity for empathy and engagement with your community. Additionally, reading can be a social activity. You could organize a book club with your friends so you have people to talk to about the text and motivate you to keep reading. There are several social media platforms that allow users to connect with other readers, review books, and find what to read next.

Finishing a longer book or series can give you a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. In a world where so much information can be acquired instantaneously, the delayed gratification involved in long-term activities like reading a book can create a positive shift in your psychology.

Reading can introduce you to new subjects that you may not have heard of before. This has the potential to change the path of your academic and/or professional career and create new opportunities for self-discovery. It’s important to keep challenging yourself in order to become a lifelong learner.

Generally speaking, the more often you read, the bigger your world gets. We understand that as students begin the college application process, they will likely be busier than ever before and won’t have as much free time. While reading isn’t the solution to everything, we nevertheless encourage students (and parents!) to try reading for fun, just to see what happens.