Rachel Cohrs: Read to spark kids' love of language, learning

The Internet has taught people to summarize.

In online media, it is essential to condense information and to have prominent visual elements because otherwise, people will get bored. This might not seem like a big issue. After all, isn't conveying information efficiently a good thing?

The short answer is, not for everything. Summarizing is especially detrimental in school. My generation has grown up with Google at our fingertips, which isn't a bad thing in itself. But when the urge to skim clashes with in-depth reading in English classes, it's a very bad thing.

You might have heard of a website called Sparknotes. If you haven't, it's a website that has summaries of classic literature and canned analysis of selected themes, symbols, and characters. There is certainly a place for Sparknotes in reviewing and clarifying plot elements.

Unfortunately, more and more kids are using Sparknotes, or a similar website, in place of reading.


Reading helps spelling, grammar, vocabulary, critical thinking, general knowledge, connection-making and analysis. This isn't just a single plotline or character we are talking about here. This is a loss of style, feeling, knowledge, and of sharing the human experience. You don't get the human experience from Sparknotes. You miss what makes stories beautiful. Not only are kids losing stories, but knowledge and skills that are essential to effective communication.

I got the opportunity to report on this topic at Mayo High School. Teachers have seen more plagiarism in recent years than before. That's possibly because it's easier to copy and paste essays now. Plagiarism also can happen because kids are insecure about their ability to think critically and put their thoughts onto paper.

Why would they be insecure? Well, many of the essays are based on books that they supposedly read. But it's really hard to write a good essay on a book you didn't read.

In addition, if reading is not a habit, then it's no wonder kids are having a hard time writing. The best way to learn about good writing is to read it. Style, vocabulary, and flow are all picked up from reading. Once reading goes by the wayside, writing and the ability to communicate eloquently may quickly follow suit.

Reading with kids helps. Taking them to the library helps. Encouraging reading books early and instilling a love of literature will serve them well later in life. Summer is a time when I get to read more, and I love it dearly. My eyes are opened and I learn so many new things and experience things through other perspectives, something that is otherwise impossible. Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from the mistakes of others?

I encourage you to sit down with a book you have been wanting to read. Read for yourself. Read to your daughter, your niece, or your cousin. No matter what it is, it will improve your communication skills, stimulate your imagination and take you to new worlds.


Rachel Cohrs will be a senior at Mayo High School. To respond to an opinion column, send an email to

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