The story the data tell is simple, consistent, and alarming. Although there
has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the
elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their
teenage years. There is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult
Americans. Most alarming, both reading ability and the habit of regular
reading have greatly declined among college graduates. These negative trends
have more than literary importance. As this report makes clear, the declines
have demonstrable social, economic, cultural, and civic implications.
How does one summarize this disturbing story? As Americans, especially
younger Americans, read less, they read less well. Because they read less
well, they have lower levels of academic achievement. (The shameful fact that
nearly one-third of American teenagers drop out of school is deeply connected
to declining literacy and reading comprehension.) With lower levels of reading
and writing ability, people do less well in the job market. Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement. Significantly worse reading skills are found among prisoners than in the general adult population. And deficient readers are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting. Read an executive summary of the report here.
It is news like this that worries me as we stand on the brink of a change-making presidential election. Change in this country won't come from one magical candidate. Change will only come from an educated and engaged citizenry. (More on this tomorrow) And how will we as citizens change this country if we are so incurious about the world, culture, politics, history and the arts, that we can't be bothered to read?
I am fortunate that my parents instilled in me a love of reading that continues to this day. I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, often to my family's chagrin. As a kid, I was often reprimanded for reading at the dinner table. And my reading while watching movies drives my husband to distraction. "You can't be paying attention to this," he often wails. But there is something alluring to me about a brand new book or magazine or journal with an uncracked spine and pristine pages. Something unread represents a sort of promise--a chance to expand my mind, an opportunity to find answers to life's questions, sometimes just a chance to escape reality. And I can't resist. Much of what I know today about the language, writing, politics, art, history and the world, did not come from the classroom, but from reading.
Find out the truth about popular diets, genetically modified foods, Mad Cow
disease, and the health effects of the food you eat. In this long-awaited and
provocative book, bestselling author John Robbins exposes the dangers behind
many of today's foods and reveals the extraordinary benefits of healthy
alternatives. The Food Revolution will show you how to extend your
life, increase your vibrancy and vitality, and take a stand for a more
compassionate and sustainable world. --from The Food Revolution
Are you on board?
P.S. Can some Blogger wizard explain to me why formatting copy using the quote tool screws up the spacing on my entire post? It is driving me NUTS!