An alarming report came out earlier this week. American’s aren’t reading much anymore. The New York Times concludes from the NEA’s report: “As that happens, [students] reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students whose access to books is limited, and employers are rating workers deficient in basic writing skills.”
As I reported in earlier posts on this blog, the NEA issued a report titled, “Reading at Risk” in 2004, which found that “fewer than half of Americans over 18 read novels, short stories, plays or poetry.” Yet, this report wished to include nonfiction as well. It’sconclusions we much the same as the earlier study. Reading in America is on the decline, and its consequences can be alarming. Times reporter interviewed Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who said he believes “the statistics could not explain why reading had declined, but he pointed to several commonly accepted culprits, including the proliferation of digital diversions on the Internet and other gadgets, and the failure of schools and colleges to develop a culture of daily reading habits. In addition, Mr. Gioia said, â€œwe live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading, literature and authors.â€”
In the chariman’s preface to the report Mr. Gioia stresses that the report is not an elegy to a bygone era of print. Instead it’s a call to action, based on the evidence of how reading enriches our lives. “All of the data suggest how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individualsâ€”whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihoodof an individualâ€™s academic and economic successâ€”facts that are not especially surprisingâ€”but it also seems to awaken a personâ€™s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed. It is reassuring, though hardly amazing, that readers attend more concerts and theater than non-readers, but it is surprising that they exercise more and play more sportsâ€”no matter what their educational level. se cold statistics confirm something thatmost readers know but havemostly been reluctant to declare as factâ€”books change lives for the better.
Find the full study “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence” (PDF) here.