Gen Z reading trends aren’t what they may seem

Many people believe that Gen Zers don’t read because they are stereotypically labeled as screen addicts and having short attention spans
Senior Sophia Zirneskie reads a book that she just checked out in Hudson High School’s Media Center. It’s very common to find Gen Z students like Zirneskie reading not only in their local library but everywhere.
Senior Sophia Zirneskie reads a book that she just checked out in Hudson High School’s Media Center. It’s very common to find Gen Z students like Zirneskie reading not only in their local library but everywhere.
Renna Eimer

Every generation has assumptions, generalizations and stereotypes made about them. For example, Boomers are stereotyped for not understanding how to work technology while millennials are stereotyped for being self-centered and having a sense of entitlement.

However, Generation Z (a.k.a Gen Z) is the generation that can’t seem to escape the wrath of these stereotypes. They have been labeled as having short attention spans, being screen addicts, being unable to handle face-to-face interactions and just generally being lazy.

Although generations can agree that these labels can be true at times, one stereotype isn’t true at all: Gen Z doesn’t read.

Shockingly enough, the members of this generation are huge bookworms and love to read almost anything. Nielsen BookData reported that 80% of book sales came from readers from ages 13 to 24 between November 2021 and November 2022. They also reported that only 14% of sales in this age group were e-books last year. This means that the majority of Gen Z reads books with paperback copies.

According to a reading survey taken by Hudson High School students, about 70.7% of students enjoy reading books.

Even though HHS may now be filled with book lovers, it wasn’t always like this. From the years 2014 to 2021, there was a decline in Hudson High School students checking out paperback books.

“Print book circulation was lowest during the 2019-2021 period,” states Megan Griffiths, Media Aide in the HHS Media Center. Ever since Griffiths started as the Media Aide in September 2021, print book circulation has risen each year, which has been very exciting for her and the other media center staff.

However, this has been quite the opposite when it comes to students reading within digital collections in Hudson High School and Middle School. There was an ultimate increase from 2017 to 2022 in the number of students using digital collections to read books. Digital collections include audiobooks, e-books and reading apps.

“The Middle School and High School got Sora (a reading app) in 2017 and there has been a high use of e-books and audiobooks since then,” Griffiths discloses.

As previously mentioned, a majority of Gen Z reads paperback copies rather than digital collections. This is indeed wrong when it comes to the Gen Z students of Hudson High School. Three times the amount of students at Hudson High School and Middle School read books digitally compared to paperback books.

Andrew Robitaille, a Media Specialist and colleague to Griffiths, believes that technology has affected Gen Z’s attention spans when it comes to reading.

“When I look over the library, I see many people using their smartphones rather than reading books,” Robitaille explains.

Timothy Ellison, a Technology Aide for Hudson High School’s Media Center, also agrees that “technology has affected Gen Z’s attention spans.”

Even 84.8% of the 92 Hudson High School students that were surveyed believe that technology has affected their attention spans when it comes to reading books and reading in general.

“Gen Z is gravitating more towards short-form entertainment, so it’s harder to convert back to reading full books once our brains have been wired a certain way,” An anonymous student from the survey stated.

This short-form entertainment includes social media platforms that contain short-timed videos ranging from 15 seconds to one minute long and can easily be scrolled past. TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube all have this form of entertainment.

According to Jomo, by watching TikTok videos or any sort of short-form entertainment from social media, the brain gets rewarded immediately, which releases dopamine, which can push people to spend even more time on TikTok (or any other version of short-form entertainment online).

When it comes to reading books, many people can no longer sit down for long periods of time because of the way this short form of entertainment from social media has affected people’s attention spans. Since reading takes longer for dopamine to be released, especially due to a majority of people’s digital space in the brain being already cluttered by technology, it’s becoming drastically harder to focus on reading for longer periods of time.

However, this distraction hasn’t affected the 34.8% of Hudson High School students who believe they could read over 100 pages in one sitting.

Even Robitaille, who is a huge bookworm, is surprised by the fact that Gen Z students can read this much in one sitting. As a member of a different generation, he can’t even read that much in a sitting due to his busy life. “It usually takes me a week to get through a novel!”

Like Robitaille, 47.8% of students at Hudson High School claim to read a book every one to two weeks. This data from HHS is very similar to data from Wattpad. They have found that nearly 40% read a book daily or a few days each week while 55% still read a book once a week or more.

In fact, with so many genres to explore and consume paperback books and online formats, Gen Z is now the main generation that maintains regular reading habits. Although students check out a wide range of books when it comes to their classes or for their own pleasure, there are two genres that the majority of these Gen Zers at Hudson are intrigued by at the moment.

“A lot of students at Hudson High School are checking out Graphic Novels or the Fantasy Genre,” Ellison reveals.

Even though students at Hudson High School are espicially interested in the graphic novel and fantasy genre, they have been open to exploring different types of books.

“Students check out a wide range of books for a wide range of reasons. They check out assigned texts or choice readings for classes, but many also read books for pleasure,” Griffith says.

According to Wattpad, Gen Zers have been embracing diversifying the genres they read, just like the Gen Z students at Hudson High School. However, Gen Z readers outside of Hudson High School are even more intrigued by the Sci-Fi genre compared to the Graphic Novel genre and Fantasy genre.

Whether you are a part of Gen Z, a bookworm or neither of these, it might be surprising for any person to find out how much this generation actively reads. As a matter of fact, 35% of Gen Zers are reading more than they did two years ago. Even though Gen Z is one of the biggest generations that read books in general, this generation, along with the other generations, needs to start being on social media less and read more to release dopamine more efficiently.

Not only does reading release dopamine from the brain more efficiently, but it also improves memory function, reduces stress, promotes relaxation, improves sleep and has the potential to decrease the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.

Our phones can also be used as an advantage when it comes to reading. There are plenty of reading apps, audiobooks and ebooks that anybody can use in a click of a second.

Griffiths describes technology as “a double-edged sword” that everyone, including Gen Z, needs to learn how to manage properly. “Everyone needs to make a conscious decision to sit down with a book. When you connect with the right book, it can change your life!”

If you are in need of a good book, make sure to stop by the Media Center for an assortment of novels of different genres.

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