The student news site of Aspen High School


The student news site of Aspen High School


The student news site of Aspen High School


Has The Culture of Reading Changed?

Sara Kershow
Stacks of well-loved stories await their next reader.

Imagine you meet someone new and instantly connect over your love for reading, they read classics, while you read romance. Instantly you will never be friends because classics are seen as snobby, and romance is ‘not real literature.’

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, reading has grown in popularity, with 2021 being the highest recorded book sales in over 20 years. Reading has been a hobby worldwide since the beginning of time, but the genres and demographics of people reading have recently shifted with the rise of book-tok and book tube, targeting a younger audience and promoting books solely for entertainment purposes.

During the difficult times of the pandemic and years after, reading became an escape for many people. Specifically, romance books written by author Emily Henry. In 2023, the fantasy genre also got lots of hype in mainstream media due to the extremely popular book Fourth Wing. Starting in 2020 a shift occurred regarding what genres were popular specifically in the media.

Literature and entertainment fiction are distinguished by whether there is a deeper meaning within the text. At the same time, literature is fantastic and fun to read but it is not the most accessible way to start for people of differing backgrounds and educations. Many pieces of literature, especially the ones read in schools, are hard to read and understand. This manufactures the belief that all books are like that when the only books people are exposed to are works of literature.

Romance and fantasy are mainly female-dominated genres for both the authors and the readers. The validity of the genre has been questioned for decades. The rise in popularity of reading for entertainment alone, in genres partially dominated by females, is not bad. This shift may be helping more people become literate past their school years.

Overall, book sales have gone up from the pandemic, but reading scores from within high schools and middle schools have dropped significantly, to a level that is concerning. This begs the question of whether kids are even reading their school books. The answer is more likely to be yes in recent years. Books read in schools used to be solely classics, but reading hard-to-understand classics discourages students from ever reading again. In schools today, more and more books that are modern literary fiction are being assigned, like Homegoing and The Things They Carried. The rise of books written to entertain people that are more accessible to larger demographics regardless of education and the addition of easier-to-understand literary fiction in schools provide a hopeful future for reading.

In many ways, this shift was so significant because it created a space where reading was more accessible and didn’t feel like it was only for the smart and rich, who could understand classics. It also painted someone who reads in a more positive light by bringing awareness to the media.

This also happened when corporate bookstores like Barnes and Noble and small local bookstores needed it. With the rise of Amazon, sales from book-only retailers were at an all-time low, but the resurgence of romance, fantasy, and general fiction novels helped to save Barnes and Noble from going under.

There is the argument that the quality of literature is getting increasingly watered down because more people read for entertainment. Genres like romance and fantasy are gaining popularity, overpowering the attention of more regularly celebrated literary fiction and classic genres. Many people want the reputation of reading to be separate from entertainment rather than deepening knowledge of the world and dissecting the deeper meaning of literature. Because reading has become more popular, publishers may very well publish mediocre books, and people may read them not believing that there is anything better.

Whether you believe romance novels are worth your time or not, the popularity of reading is invaluable to struggling bookstore owners and children who have grown disdain for reading through school. Reading is still reading no matter what you read.

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About the Contributor
Sara Kershow
Sara Kershow, Staff Writer
Sara is a junior and this is her second year writing for the Skier Scribbler, Sara is a part of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, an avid fan of Taylor Swift and enjoys reading. Sara joined the Skier Scribbler because she loves the community and expressing all of her many compelling opinions. She loves words and using them to bring awareness.

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