Based upon recent studies, people don’t read enough books. It seems like the old conversation-starting question is quickly losing its relevance in our high-tech, high-speed world. We are rapidly becoming a society where no one has the time or energy to sit down with a good book. Despite eBooks and technology-enabled readers like Nooks, Kindles, and iPads that make books more accessible, we are all resisting the creasing of any spines.
In a recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts, “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence,” an increasing number of adult Americans were not even reading one book a year. The report emphasizes the social benefits of reading: “Literary readers” are more likely to exercise, visit art museums, keep up with current events, vote in presidential elections, and perform volunteer work.
As a writer, I see this played out every day. I practically have to slip a $20 bill in every copy of one of my books to get people to read them — and that’s just with my family. Yes, it could just be that I’m a crummy writer, which saddens me. But an even sadder thought is that people aren’t motivated to read at all.
Some more findings from the report provide a little hope along with more reason for worry. A few noteworthy points:
- “The number of adults with bachelor’s degrees and ‘proficient in reading prose’ dropped from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2009.
- Some news is good, notably among 9-year-olds, whose reading comprehension scores have soared since the early 1990s.
- But at the same time, the number of 17-year-olds who “never or hardly ever” read for pleasure has doubled, to 19 percent, and their comprehension scores have fallen.
I guess the biggest worry is how reading is tied to creative thought and strategic thinking. In the world of business, these are mission critical skills for ongoing growth and development. These skills are honed by taking the time to process new concepts, ideas, and thoughts, which come through reading and reflection on a regular basis.
The report from the National Endowment for the Arts concludes that, “This should explode the notion that reading is somehow a passive activity … Reading creates people who are more active by any measure. People who don’t read, who spend more of their time watching TV or on the Internet, playing video games, seem to be significantly more passive.”
So, let’s do each other a favor and pick up a book (paper or electronic).