Books, Music, Movies, Youth Issues, Random Stuff

Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading?

with 9 comments

This week, I was happy to read an article that defends reading for pleasure. It was reprinted on the Huffington Post from Youth Communication. The article was written by a fifteen year old named Anthony Turner.

I wish I had been able to find someone like Anthony among my black peers when I was in high school.  Like Anthony, I was teased for enjoying reading in high school. Unlike him though, I couldn’t take pride in what I loved because I felt alone and that I didn’t have a place to belong. Fortunately, I managed to identify with literary characters like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Ponyboy Curtis from the teen fiction book The Outsiders.

In the article, Anthony mentions that black youth culture prizes guys who are athletes and musicians. A similar value is placed on black women. Instead of intelligence, black youth culture values women’s looks and how provocative they are.

While the same thing can be said of men and women of almost any race, Anthony mentions that black and Hispanic men have the lowest graduation rates. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 37 percent of Hispanic female students and 40 percent of black female students drop out of high school.

How sad is it that a good chunk of young minorities become nothing more than a statistic?

There are two things that cause reading to be disdained: the lack of a good family rearing and the influence of the mass media, especially entertainment media. A less minor reason is that the right book isn’t being read.

As a black female, I am grateful that my parents showed me the value of an education and instilled in me a love of reading. In fact, my mother told me that she read while I was still in her womb. Not sure if it’s true, but it paid off.

With the influence of the media, some minority youth are brainwashed into selling themselves short. If you don’t do what is considered cool or popular, then you are considered lame. Even worse, some minority youth are asked by their peers and others, “Why don’t you act more Hispanic?” or “Why don’t you act more black?”

I was asked the latter question indirectly. Despite the angst I felt with that and being teased, I rebelled against the status quo and kept reading for pleasure and being myself.

What most of my peers didn’t know is that I only liked reading for pleasure when I could choose the books I wanted to read. I hated reading the majority of books that were assigned to us in high school. Thanks to the library and a cool teacher who introduced me to teen fiction in middle school, I found material that I enjoyed.

Now in college, I have gained pride in being a bibliophile and share that pride with others by blogging. I hope Anthony Hall’s pride never fades and continues to grow.

If more young people like me and Anthony can develop the courage and resilience to become knowledgable and follow their passions no matter what, then this world will become smarter, more unique, and awesome.

Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2012 at 8:52 PM

9 Responses

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  1. […] Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading? ( […]

  2. […] Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading? ( […]

  3. There is a great article titled “superman and me” which discusses the influence of reading on a young man. It’s worth Googling


    September 24, 2012 at 6:56 AM

  4. I’m still in high school, so the fact that I enjoy reading is still questioned about once a month by my peers. The emphasis has become less on the fact that it isn’t black to read, but more on the fact that I don’t read “blacker” books. Maybe I’m just confused or something, but I always just thought that there were books in general. There were non-fiction books and fictional books along with their accompaning genres. There is no “black” section of books in my library which is a fact I don’t apologize for.
    That all being said, I think the reason why some black people don’t read is because it might be seen as a “white” thing. In the past, whites were the ones who read and went to school so obviously if you were reading and the like it was because you wanted to become whiter. I can understand that train of thought, I just don’t get why it hasn’t changed. Perhaps it’s an enviromental thing.


    September 23, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    • I think that there are many reasons why some black people don’t read. You’ve already stated two reasons: that it is seen as a “white thing” and that the environment (meaning the community) isn’t good for gaining knowledge and getting an education. The latter is especially true with inner city schools; I should know, I went to a high school in a major city. As I’ve already stated in the editorial, a lack of an influential family and the media can discourage blacks from reading as well. I think the reason things haven’t changed is because of all of these things.It would take a HUGE ripple effect to make things better.

      The fact that your peers want you to read “blacker books” is just plain stupid. Like you said, there are just books in general. Keep on reading what you love no matter what 🙂


      September 23, 2012 at 7:51 PM

  5. 20something-years old, I too, am a passionate reader. Fan of historical (non)fiction, urban, erotica, and suspense. In school, I was the writer in the clique. Now, I gravitate towards what many consider “archaic” because I enjoy the fresh feel of book pages or Harlem Renaissance culture — oh well.

    “A powerful woman is an informed woman”. I encourage you to stay true self, explore theories and tales from other written works, and develop your own. Reading is fundamental and there is much power in the pen.

    As far as Anthony’s uhh… theory. Highschool graduation rates are low, but there’s an increase in college graduation rates among blacks?; the youth “prize” sports, sex and entertainment, but blacks are trailblazing in other areas: small business, fashion, government and technologies?; shame these broad generalizations (“black youth” who “prizes” athletes, musicians, and provocative appearances “instead of intelligence”) are reported more often than any other… Perhaps he needs to broaden his research to discover other stats.


    September 22, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    • Hi, thanks for commenting and visiting my blog 🙂

      Funny you should mention developing my own written work; I’ve been writing poetry since I was 13 years old and I’ve been developing my story writing skills since I took a Creative Writing class last fall. I love writing just as much as I love reading.

      The Harlem Renaisssance is my favorite period in black history as well; I love some of the jazz music and some of the literary works written during this time. Langston Hughes is one of my favorite poets.


      September 22, 2012 at 7:02 PM

  6. So true. What a great message, and good for you girl! *claps*

    “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, day and night to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.and never stop fighting.”- E.E Cummings.


    September 22, 2012 at 9:59 AM

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