1000 Word Reading Challenge

Are teenagers reading too much?

I am guessing you know the answer to that.

Unless you think I am just a cranky old guy pining for the “good old days”,  I’m not alone.

The amazing work of researcher Dr. Jean Twenge talks about the change in teenage reading habits over the past several decades.

It will not be a revelation to know that they are not reading more. Well, at least not the complex text they used to.

According to Dr. Twenge’s research, only 20% of teenagers read a newspaper, article, or book on any given day.  This contrasts with over 33% of students reading at least daily in the 1990s. I am not simply talking about them reading information online or e-readers, her research shows that this is not the case.

What are they doing instead?

Texting, social media, and video games.

In fact, by 12th grade, they are spending close to 6  hours each day in this digital universe.

This worries me.

Not only are they struggling with the ability to comprehend the challenging texts they will encounter in college, leading to them not completing college; they are also facing a diminished capacity to be a fully thoughtful participant in our democratic society.

From the American Psychological Association website, Dr. Twenge states:

“There’s no lack of intelligence among young people, but they do have less experience focusing for longer periods of time and reading long-form text, “ she said. “Being able to read long-form text is crucial for understanding complex issues and developing critical thinking skills. Democracies need informed voters and involved citizens who can think through issues, and that might be more difficult for people of all ages now that online information is the norm.”

So, my goal is to encourage every educator and parent of a high schooler to take the “1,000 Word a Day Reading Challenge.”

Quite simply, please beg those you love to read 1000 words (an article or two) or a chapter in a book each day for the next year.  Not simply the brief interactions of digital conversation, but challenging, thought-provoking text.

Encourage them to read slowly, thoughtfully and savor it.

For those of us true-believers, reading is one of the deepest intellectual pleasures humans can enjoy.

It might not reach that level of satisfaction for everyone, but it still is one of the most essential habits for success.

A thousand words a day of reading.

Can it change the world?


It sure has changed mine. To think that two generations ago, only one of my grandparents graduated from high school. Two dropped out by 8th grade to begin working. Both of my parents worked hard and earned college degrees-an associates and a bachelor’s. I am fortunate enough to have a master’s degree.

More importantly, it has helped expose me to ideas and information that have truly nourished me and connected me to cultures and people that leave me feeling fortunate to be living at this time of history.

From the amazing poetry of Robert Fanning to the thought-provoking research of Dr. Jean Twenge, to the work of Dr. Jon Carroll, who is using drones to help solve poverty in Africa, it is reading that has helped me learn and understand about these inspirational people.

I would not have been able to do it without my parents reading to me, buying me books and magazines and having teachers that encouraged me to read voraciously.

Isn’t there someone you know that could benefit from the inspiration to read more?

A thousand words a day.

Let’s begin now.





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