Reading about Reading

Reading about Reading

The opening paragraph from Elizabeth Minkel’s article in The New Yorker certainly caught my attention. Could it be true that the decline of reading may be on the reverse? Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, reports that more Americans are reading books than in previous years. The increase was small, nonetheless it was there. As Minkel writes, reading has been on the decline in our country for some time. “The steady drop since the nineteen-fifties correlates directly with the rise of television and visual media, but much of the damage has been done in the past two decades, well after TV had solidified its place in Americans’ lives … But despite the small gains, a solid half of the country still rarely, if ever, picks up a book for pleasure. In the same press release, the N.E.A. said that “The U.S. population now breaks into two almost equally sized groups—readers and non-readers.””

I recommend Minkel’s story. She cites other published stories that look at both sides of the issue. Is reading really on the decline? Or is the reverse really true–is it on the rise again? What difference does it make? Can it be true, as Gioia states in the NEA report, that “cultural decline” hangs in the balance? Many commenters on the subject actually address different questions, as Minkel points out nicely in her final paragraph: “Le Guin is talking about Americans’ lack of interest in pleasure reading; Poe is searching for innovative ways of teaching people who will never find reading enjoyable; and Crain is warning us against the dangers of thinking that reading is something that we can move past. Book sales might be dropping, but for now, those of us who read are not about to abandon the pastime. The question is how hard we should be working to convert the half of Americans who do not.”

Post a comment