Friday, July 1, 2011

Minority rules?

Thanks to my wife's suggestion, I started reading an interesting new book titled The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, by Alan Jacobs. It seems to be a semi-response (though this is only a minor impetus for the writing of this book as far as I can tell) to the classic, How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. In it, he references a recent research conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts titled "Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Legacy" (For the full report, go here). The first conclusion found in this research caught my eye:

What surprised me was that the findings found in 2008 showed that for the first time in 26 years(!), the percentage of adult readers increased. In other words, since 1982, they conducted this survey 5 times and they have only witnessed a downward trend of adults in America who read a work of literature in the past 12 months. I suppose the advent of eBook readers may have contributed to the recent findings, but more than the increase in % readership, what intrigued me was that for the first time in almost a decade, the "majority" (by the slightest of margins; 50.2%) of Americans read some work of literature in the last 12 months.
I've been thinking about the kind of problems that the seemingly infectious aversion to reading creates in our society, and in my view, I don't know what other conclusion one can come to besides negative ones. It has shocked me more than a few times to hear some folks declare that they have not read a single book cover to cover since high school, claiming this feat as a badge-of-honor. And if not the detriment to society in general, then what about to our families and our churches? The study proved that the American-reader is now the "majority" over against the "minority" of American-illiterates, but it certainly feels as if minority rules strong in the overall American culture.

What interesting reads have you come across lately and what are some ways to battle this ubiquitous aversion to reading?

1 comment:

Ben said...

another great post! i thank your wife