The New York Times reported today on a new study released by the National Endowment for the Arts that found, among other things, “…fewer than half of Americans over 18 read novels, short stories, plays or poetry…” The usual suspects are trotted out: books compete with the visual diversions, movies, tv, video games and the like. Poverty is probably an issue as well. The study also points to the flatness or decline in reading scores among students, and income level for adults. The more one reads the better the scores (including tests in Math and Science); the more one reads the more income one makes. Except in my case.
Of course, this study is of some concern to me inasmuch as I depend on a literate public to make my living. I’m fortunate that my customers are literate and I can conduct good conversations with them. I’d like to continue to do so.
I can’t be sure and I have no proof, but I think that there is a current group of young people who are growing up illiterate. Somehow the get by in school with the rudiments of reading ability and street smarts. But because they have been failed on some way early on, and not taught properly how to read, never discover the pleasures of the printed narrative. Or feel the tactile satisfaction of holding a book in one’s hands.
There is an elderly man who brings me the weekly local neighborhood paper. He told me some time ago, with great pride, that he was taking reading classes at the Goodwill. It’s never too late.