Why YOU should read in your teens and early 20s

Oliver Smuhar

Thursday, 5th September, 2019

Being well into my first year at university, I now have more free time to do things I couldn't when I was in high school. I got a second job, binge watched the crap out of a long-running mediocre CW show, played games I did not have time for like The Witcher Three and I feel a lot less anxious now when I read. This year alone, I’ve read roughly nine books, which may not seem like a lot, but it is a lot more than the one or two I read a year in high school.

However, given this opportunity to be less stressed and more active in reading things I genuinely enjoy, like fantasy epics, such as the Wheel of Time, life lessons like How to Win Friends and Influence People—yes I read that—and even books about ideologies, such as The Power of Now, I have been gaining a sense of learning I never once received in either high school or well… university.

And that’s the thing! People always told me that once I leave high school and actually do the things I have always wanted to at university, that's when I would feel much better about learning. Although university may be a lot more insightful, the tutors can be rather genuine, it seems kind of worse and feels more pointless than school.

The education system sucks

According to Bhardwa’s (2017) study on universities in the U.K., it is clear that 91% of students want to attend university due to their own accordance, majority picking the campus with a better quality in teaching rather than a higher graduate employment rate. This also correlates with Supiano (2015), who discovered that students in the U.S. understand that higher education is available, however, the affordability to attended has had a lasting effect on their interest to continue it. Supiano (2015) insinuates that universities need to change, meeting the needs of its contemporary, technologically literate students of generation Y, generation Z and for the future of generation Alpha. This word change, although recognised, is most crucial when understanding why it is important to read in your teens and early twenties.

Through these statistics, it is indeed obvious that teens want to learn and gain a higher education (Bhardwa 2017). Especially once they leave school—from my own personal experience, I want to learn what I like and/or enjoy… Writing. For you it may be business, law, art, anything creatively expressive, mathematically stimulating or fascinating through scientific breakthroughs beyond our imaginations. University offers all these things but hasn’t changed when offering to its students’ more needy, narrower, diverse, consumeristic qualities. Unlike the rest of society, the education system hasn’t actually changed all that much. In comparison, look at the transformation of phones or cars since the 1940s. I don’t even have to say anything because visuals are all you need.

Old Phone

(Image: Laiton n.d.)

Mobile Phone

(Image: Apple 2018)

Old Car

(Image: Buick Special 1940 n.d.)

New Car

(Image: 2019 BMW M4 2019)

However, since 1944, the schooling system has had some minor changes. Punishment has become less physical with the cane and more detention based, inclusion for people with disabilities has sky rocketed—from my experience people with reading difficulties and writing dysfunctions could get extra time, breaks and scribes during their university entrance exams, creating more equality—the impact of technology has changed the onset of the curriculum in most countries and the risk in more dangerous subjects has become safer with the Health and Safety Act 1978 (School Reporters 2014).

Although these changes are fantastic, the examination pressure has become a lot more intense, even though it allows for equality, the BBC School Reporters (2014) did state that high school students 45 years ago “could leave school one day with no qualifications and receive a job the next day” (p.1). Nowadays you need at least experience, tradesman need TAFE, most employees distributing alcohol and gambling need some form of license and higher paying jobs are fought for during the five years of extra study time at university.

University Today

From my own experience, I am a writer, I enjoy films, literature, essays and all sorts of other story based telling devices and I enjoy the buddhist philosophy of the Middle Way, so I decided to study a Communication’s course in Journalism—“the historical documentation of stories from within the present,” the Now. But, from my now 20 weeks into university, it’s both my major and my worst subject, because I don’t have the opportunity to learn about the things I thought I would be learning about.

Journalism Education

(Image: Bhasin 2019)

There wasn’t enough description based on the subject and its assessments, I’m learning things such as editing videos and the difference between passive and active writing, which is incredibly helpful for these essays I want to make, but then again every third lecture seems to be about politics, law, a celebrity or something about immigration and not necessarily about writing the events that gravitate towards me, taking place presently in our society. It’s never once about environmentalism, a small town community doing good, someone doing something outstanding, instead it feels as though I have participated in a law/politics/immigration degree. Unfortunately, I’ve only had one actual written story assessment, and yes, how people consume news stories has changed vastly since the 20th century, but the written story was only worth one sixth of my overall first semester mark.

I feel like, if university is really this place where we can be ourselves and learn what we want, we still continue to not have that subject variety. Yes, you can learn architecture, become an architect and design building. Yet people are much more complicated and diverse today and the sad fact is, education is not! Subjects need to be more narrow, expectations need to be less high and how we process this information needs to change. However, some things have always been the same!

Why You Should Read

According to a 2018 study by Jean Twenge, the average 12th grader spends six hours a day texting, browsing social media and the internet online. I use my phone all the time, even researching and producing some of this story. The amazing thing about phones is that we have a constant access to the media, stories, this article, etc. But, if it has taken 75 years for schools to become a little more inclusive, yet more harder, remaining broad and I guess not always what it advertises; if you’re interesting in something, like space, a weird Egyptian symbol, reading, how to make money, Buddhism, smiling, depression, medicine, how to write stories, there are countless articles out there, books by experts in their craft, little essays like my own, and with self publication becoming more and more accessible, thousands and thousands of books, tutorials, essays, reports, news stories and everything in between is just one click away.

Book on Timber Floor

(Image: Funasaki Yuen 2015)

You shouldn’t read because it’s nerdy or boring or stupid, read because you want to improve yourself, learn something that you’re genuinely interested in or maybe so you can say a fun fact at the dinner table. Because at the end of the day, reading is one of the oldest forms of human expression and without it I suppose the world would seem a little more black and white.


- Apple. 2018, ‘Buy iPhone XR’, iPhone XR, California, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://www.apple.com/au/shop/buy-iphone/iphone-xr/6.1-inch-display-64gb-red).

- Bhardwa, S. 2017, ‘Why do students go to university and how do they choose which one?', The World University Rankings, UK, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/news/why-do-students-go-university-and-how-do-they-choose-which-one).

- Bhasin, H. 2019, 21 Types of Journalism most used in Media, Marketing 91, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://www.marketing91.com/21-types-of-journalism).

- Buick Special 1940 For Wedding Car Rental. n.d., IndiaMART, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://www.indiamart.com/proddetail/buick-special-1940-for-wedding-car-rental-17140662288.html).

- Funasaki Yuen, J. 2015, ‘Reading and Talk Story Session to feature UHWO writing cohort , Oct. 27’, E Kamakani Hou: The New Wind, University of Hawaii, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://westoahu.hawaii.edu/ekamakanihou/?p=1641).

- Laiton, Z. n.d, Candle Phones: Pure Brass 1944 Gec Replica, EC21, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://orpheus.en.ec21.com/CANDLE_PHONES_PURE_BRASS_1944--85886_85887.html).

- School Reporters. 2014, ‘Education Act: How schools have changed since 1944’, News School Report, BBC, North Tyneside, viewed 8 September 2019, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/25761123).

- Supiano, B. 2015, ‘What People Think About College: a Snapshot of Public Opinion’, The Chronicle of higher Education, Washington, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-People-Think-About/229439).

- 2019 BMW M4. 2019, autoblog, weblog, viewed 8 September 2019, (https://www.autoblog.com/buy/2019-BMW-M4).

- Twenge, J. 2018, ‘Why it matters that teens are reading less’, The Conversation Media Group, Australia, viewed 8 September 2019, (http://theconversation.com/why-it-matters-that-teens-are-reading-less-99281).