Five percent of respondents to a Gallup poll claim to have read 70 or more books during the past year. But the poll makes no distinction regarding the quality of the books read.
Serious reading had always been a minority matter."
Are you one of the five percent? Are you doing Serious Reading?
[ Gallup's metric is ridiculous. I read every single day. I have maybe 30 books on my bedside table, either recently finished, in progress or on deck. I'm certain that I read 70 books a year, but that's because I have no wife or girlfriend, much less children, so I have nothing but personal time, and I still often sacrifice sleep to spend more time with a book. 70 books a year is slightly faster than one every 6 days. Normal humans simply can't do that. Certainly not with any hope of retention. Do I think they should be able to? Hell yeah... we work too much and all too often our leisure feels like work because it has to be scheduled and carefully planned. The absolute luxury of really reading... the sheer inefficiency of it... is, to me at least, the very definition of leisure. Not that I don't have to sneak it in around the corners sometimes too. The benefits -- wisdom, entertainment, perspective, escape, insight -- are gifts, which perhaps too few appreciate. I don't mean to suggest that literature is inherently supierior to other forms of leisure activity, but it's my favorite and I think it offers things that can't be found elsewhere.
Perhaps part of explanation of decline is that people think of reading as either academic, and therefore too much like work, or as pure entertainment, in which case they can choose another venue, of which there are many new forms. I think that's a simplistic view, but I don't think it's uncommon.
I read for all the things I listed above, but also because I find it to be an rejection of the notion that time is wasted if it's not serving some productive end. It's the salve for the raw spots left by life's tethers : blackberry and cellphone and action item lists and email and calendars. It's escapist, in the best possible way.
Anyway, I think young adults are still reading, in a sense, because of the time they spend online, but it'd be presumptuous to venture a guess as to the quality. There's also, I'm sure, an impact from video games, and, perhaps, increased social activity, fostered by improved tech for coordinating and so on. Those tethers aren't all bad, of course. If kids are spending more time with each other, one can hardly argue against that.
As a final note, there's a mention of the problem being, in part, the way in which literature is presented to students. I won't support that, precisely, because I'm not really in a position to say, but I will say that one exceptional teacher is often the difference between a kid that becomes engaged and one who doesn't. I'm sure there's a discussion to be had about testing methods, and the problems there, but now we're drifting even further off topic. -k]