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jkcates
08-06-2008, 10:24 PM
I know this has probably been stated before, but it seems a worrisome trend. I have been studying the reading rates for my degree (I want to teach high school English - no snickers please) and have really been shocked.
58% of adults do not read a book after high school (U.S.)
And of the remaining 42%, something like half do not read regularly (i.e. at least two books a year).
Now of course these are simply measurements of Book reading, and does not account for magazines, blogs etc.
But there certainly seems a trend of non-reading going on, and, as writers, I wondered what some thoughts were on why this is happening.
Is it merely due to more offerings now... i.e. internet, television, game boys (you get the picture)
OR
Is it something more fundemental. Are kids growing up to become non-reading adults for other reasons? (maybe reading is only associated with school work and reports for instance)
If the trends keep up, it seems the market for writers will as well. Making the already faniciful idea of supporting ones self as a writer even more a pipe dream.

Just wanting some thoughts,
Thanks

Captshady
08-06-2008, 10:31 PM
I coudn't possibly theorize WHY. I can say that I believe that stat, though. Over 58% of my friends don't read.

kct webber
08-06-2008, 10:31 PM
I think a lot of it is what is offered for entertainment--TV, internet, etc.--as well as time. We are more fast-paced every day, and for a lot of people, a book takes a long time to read.

It probably has a lot to do with the education system as well. I know when I was in school, a large percentage of what they gave us to read was crap. I learned to like reading independantly; I didn't learn it in school.

jkcates
08-06-2008, 10:35 PM
I think a lot of it is what is offered for entertainment--TV, internet, etc.--as well as time. We are more fast-paced every day, and for a lot of people, a book takes a long time to read.

It probably has a lot to do with the education system as well. I know when I was in school, a large percentage of what they gave us to read was crap. I learned to like reading independantly; I didn't learn it in school.

I think the entertainment angle plays a part, but my gut tells me that it must start out sooner than this. I heard a radio broadcast (I think NPR but maybe not) talking about how difficult and time consuming it is for teachers to get books approved into the curriculum. Which is why "the classics" keep being read over and over again.
Now dont get me wrong, there is a LOT to love about reading the classics, however, I wonder if this doesnt actually turn off a lot of potential readers very early. I dont know, just is a sad thing really.

drachin8
08-06-2008, 10:37 PM
I know this has probably been stated before, but it seems a worrisome trend. I have been studying the reading rates for my degree (I want to teach high school English - no snickers please) and have really been shocked.
58% of adults do not read a book after high school (U.S.)
And of the remaining 42%, something like half do not read regularly (i.e. at least two books a year).
Now of course these are simply measurements of Book reading, and does not account for magazines, blogs etc.
But there certainly seems a trend of non-reading going on, and, as writers, I wondered what some thoughts were on why this is happening.
Is it merely due to more offerings now... i.e. internet, television, game boys (you get the picture)
OR
Is it something more fundemental. Are kids growing up to become non-reading adults for other reasons? (maybe reading is only associated with school work and reports for instance)
If the trends keep up, it seems the market for writers will as well. Making the already faniciful idea of supporting ones self as a writer even more a pipe dream.

Just wanting some thoughts,
Thanks

I am interested in seeing a bit more of the trend as opposed to a single datapoint. Difficult to evaluate a trend with a single datapoint. So what were the percentages in reading 5 years ago? 10? 15? 25? 50? Heck, 100?

And what major social and political events were occurring near these times to affect reading trends? And how have literacy rates changed during these same time periods?

More datapoints, please!


:)

-Michelle

Sargentodiaz
08-06-2008, 10:44 PM
If that's the case, why are there so many bookstores? There must be SOME people out there reading!

Recently taken some flights and I'd guess the vast majority of the passengers were reading something.

In additionl I think the internet is providing a lot of reading opportunities to those who woudn't otherwise bother. Maybe e-books and ezines are the future?

SPMiller
08-06-2008, 10:58 PM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences. Focus on the mechanics of conflict and tension and delay-of-resolution and characterization and indirection-in-dialog and all that. To wit, why are these works entertaining and why do we want to read them?

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

Cranky
08-06-2008, 11:00 PM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences.

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

Yuppers. I still think we should cover the classics, but not beat kids over the head with them. And definitely throw in some contemporary literature.

Captshady
08-06-2008, 11:01 PM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences. Focus on conflict and tension and delay-of-resolution and all that. Why are these works entertaining and why do we want to read them?

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

AMEN!!!

What's the point behind forcing kids to read that stuff anyways (although I loved To Kill A Mockingbird)? What does reading Shakespeare, or Great Expectations actually do for anyone?

kct webber
08-06-2008, 11:04 PM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences.

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

I agree. Let them learn to love reading, then let them learn to analyze it. I like a lot of the classics, but they are an... aquired tastes, I guess--precisely because they aren't contemporary. I learned to love them after I learned to love reading in general, not the other way around.

citymouse
08-06-2008, 11:19 PM
Adding to Ivcabbie's thought. I would like to see the day when students from at least 1-12ys be afforded text -ebooks. Carrying a slim electronic gizmo (as many do now) has got to be more attractive than hauling heavy text books around. The cost factor would be immense since one devise could last years with new editions of books programed remotely.

I remember my senior homeroom teacher extolling the virtues of a new product known as paperback books. Imagine, less cost, less weight, and no need to resell!
C


If that's the case, why are there so many bookstores? There must be SOME people out there reading!

Recently taken some flights and I'd guess the vast majority of the passengers were reading something.

In additionl I think the internet is providing a lot of reading opportunities to those who woudn't otherwise bother. Maybe e-books and ezines are the future?

Sassee
08-06-2008, 11:22 PM
I don't feel this is a worrisome trend (and how is it a trend, if there are no other metrics posted here to compare it to? What if those numbers actually ROSE over the last couple of decades? We don't know without more numbers).

Consider the fevered excitement amongst the younger generation right now and *then* ask yourself that question (JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, anyone?). I'm of the opinion that this isn't an issue.

NicoleMD
08-06-2008, 11:32 PM
Life's too short to worry about how other people spend their recreation time. I wouldn't judge a person for not reading. If they'd rather spend their time backpacking through Europe, base jumping, or visiting the elderly, that's their choice.

Fortunately, I make it a point to not be friends with those kinds of people. ;)

Nicole

kuwisdelu
08-06-2008, 11:52 PM
Yuppers. I still think we should cover the classics, but not beat kids over the head with them. And definitely throw in some contemporary literature.

Definitely. I think there should still be some classics in there, and students should still be expected to look for symbolism, imagery, theme, etc., and dissect literature, but sometimes it goes too far. And there are definitely contemporary books that would be great inclusions to the curriculum. One thing I always wished we could have done is read our own choice of books. Please. Let me have some choice. Don't make me read something as atrocious as Fear's Crow when I can read Alexie. Don't make me read Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice when I can thoroughly enjoy Wuthering Heights. Don't make me read Hemingway when there's Fitzgerald sitting there.

Virector
08-06-2008, 11:58 PM
It's sad, but I really don't know any adult who I associate with directly who reads anything, other than teachers! In fact, I'd say about 70% of my high school friends don't read, unless if it's all about the hype (Harry Potter, anyone?). I guess that's why I get so much negative criticism from my peers about aspiring to write a book

TerzaRima
08-07-2008, 12:03 AM
What does reading Shakespeare, or Great Expectations actually do for anyone?

Um.

And there are definitely contemporary books that would be great inclusions to the curriculum.

There are, but sometimes the headlong curricular rush away from Dead White Guys is overly reactive and benefits nobody.

veinglory
08-07-2008, 12:06 AM
58% of adults do not read a book after high school (U.S.)

Source?

One can speculate based on a assumption but it is a little like designing a hat for someone who may not have a head. It assumes not only that most people do not read now, but that once upon a time in a golden age most people did and were better off for it.

Red-Green
08-07-2008, 12:11 AM
The problem with "teaching the classics" as I see it, is how we apply the notion of teaching. I taught Literature classes for years and the thing I quickly realized is that we imagine we're "teaching literature" when we show students how to dissect a story. It's like teaching a student to tune a guitar and claiming it's a music appreciation class. The only way to enjoy reading is to be allowed to enjoy it. I want to know why high schools don't just let students read in the same free-wheeling way second graders are allowed to read.

Jayswords
08-07-2008, 12:16 AM
What veinglory said. I won't comment on an unverified statistic. What I can say, however, is that the American education system is quite appalling. It could use a 42% improvement.

virtue_summer
08-07-2008, 01:53 AM
I would wonder about the source of the statistics as well as ask if the statistic is really considering all books. I don't know a single person who never reads. Some of them read only rarely (maybe four or five books a year). Some of them read only non fiction: history, how to books, etc. My younger brother didn't read much in school but now that he joined the army he reads all the time. He started reading because he didn't have access to television, etc, all the time. Here's an idea, though, to get people you know to read: Leave your books lying around and make sure they know how interesting they are. Seriously. I had this book I bought and I left it sitting around so one of my cousins asked to read it. Then she got so into it that everyone else in the family kept asking her what was so interesting about it that she didn't want to watch television, etc, with them. By the end of the month four other family members had read that book. Also, a lot of people I know won't buy books on their own but if you give a book to them to read they will. People are strange.

Ageless Stranger
08-07-2008, 01:57 AM
Parents can be a strong influence too. My mum has bookcases full of books and ever since I was small I would read them. Now I too have creaking bookcases. School, especially secondary school, did not make me enjoy the classics, if anything, it put me off Shakespeare for a few years.

Bo Sullivan
08-07-2008, 02:01 AM
The problem with "teaching the classics" as I see it, is how we apply the notion of teaching. I taught Literature classes for years and the thing I quickly realized is that we imagine we're "teaching literature" when we show students how to dissect a story. It's like teaching a student to tune a guitar and claiming it's a music appreciation class. The only way to enjoy reading is to be allowed to enjoy it. I want to know why high schools don't just let students read in the same free-wheeling way second graders are allowed to read.


How true it is that reading should be all about enjoying a book rather than dissecting the content of the book and the words that go to make up that book. I have to admit that studying to A' level literature standard, I learned to appreciate the author's choice of words, but when I was a child of 11 all I wanted to do was read the story and digest the impact of that story.

Barbara

KTC
08-07-2008, 02:05 AM
The problem with "teaching the classics" as I see it, is how we apply the notion of teaching. I taught Literature classes for years and the thing I quickly realized is that we imagine we're "teaching literature" when we show students how to dissect a story. It's like teaching a student to tune a guitar and claiming it's a music appreciation class. The only way to enjoy reading is to be allowed to enjoy it. I want to know why high schools don't just let students read in the same free-wheeling way second graders are allowed to read.

I agree. I am so glad I arrived at high school well read. Otherwise, they may have beat it out of me. Apart from my grade 9 English teacher...they all just hated their jobs and had had enough of literature by the time I got to them. My grade 9 teacher was incredible and I still consider myself fortunate enough to have had him for a teacher, but I read most of the high school books before I got there. Often, they don't teach it...they beat you with it until it gets to the point where you flinch when you see it come out. "Oh my God...a book. Duck!"

I love the scene in DEAD POETS SOCIETY where Robin Williams tears out the drivel (introduction) at the front of a book on poetry. I think everybody should do this...tear out the scholarly dreck introducing the world's literature. To eat it is to do yourself a disservice. Go to page one and immerse yourself in the writer...not the yak.

benbradley
08-07-2008, 02:11 AM
I am interested in seeing a bit more of the trend as opposed to a single datapoint. Difficult to evaluate a trend with a single datapoint. So what were the percentages in reading 5 years ago? 10? 15? 25? 50? Heck, 100?

And what major social and political events were occurring near these times to affect reading trends? And how have literacy rates changed during these same time periods?

More datapoints, please!


:)

-Michelle
And of those who do read, HOW MUCH do they read? Perhaps the percentage of people who read has gone down, yet the average number of books read per year might have gone up!

If that's the case, why are there so many bookstores? There must be SOME people out there reading!
That's what I was thinking above.

Recently taken some flights and I'd guess the vast majority of the passengers were reading something.

In additionl I think the internet is providing a lot of reading opportunities to those who woudn't otherwise bother. Maybe e-books and ezines are the future?
Delta has just announce it will have WiFi available on all commercial flights for an extra $10 or so per flight. It would be interesting to see how many people do that instead of reading books. And as far as reading online, I suspect a lot of reading is of news sites, blogs and discussion forums (things that normally wouldn't be published in books), and probably not much fiction. Even for reading online, I'll read a longish fact article, but for fiction I'd rather print it and read it later as bedtime reading.

Cybernaught
08-07-2008, 02:43 AM
I wouldn't worry. How much money does the publishing industry take in each year? I know that everytime I go into a B&N it's packed with readers of all ages. If people really weren't reading, books and magazines would have dropped off the surface right now along with 8-Track tapes. I don't think print is a dead format.

Prozyan
08-07-2008, 02:50 AM
I was fortunate in my senior English class in high school to have a teacher that thought about how dull the "classics" would be to modern (if you consider the early 90s modern) students. So we watched movies and read books that shared themes with Shakespeare and then compared the movie/book with the original. For example, we watched The Quiet Guy with John Wayne, then compared it with The Taming of the Shrew. It was a lot of fun and captured a lot of interest.

Storm Dream
08-07-2008, 03:32 AM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences. Focus on the mechanics of conflict and tension and delay-of-resolution and characterization and indirection-in-dialog and all that. To wit, why are these works entertaining and why do we want to read them?

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

EXACTLY. I was an avid reader as a child, and once I got to high school (nearly ten years ago...yikes!) that was the end of fun reading for me. If I hadn't already had a solid background in reading, the stuff we were assigned and forced to dissect would've put me off it forever. I did a lot of reading in high school, and the only books that left any kind of impression on me were Coffee Will Make You Black (later banned from my school because someone complained) and Catch-22.

The rest all blurred together into something that generally took the entertainment out of reading.

TerzaRima
08-07-2008, 05:19 AM
It sounds like you guys just had uninspired teachers.

I always felt patronized as a teenager, when, for example, a teacher encouraged us to act out scenes from Romeo and Juliet using modern slang and our favorite music in the background. Right, because you think we can't appreciate this unless you MTVify it for us.

And that "parting is such sweet sorrow" scene sounds pretty silly when you're chanting the lines over Def Leppard's Photograph.

TPCSWR
08-07-2008, 02:18 PM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences. Focus on the mechanics of conflict and tension and delay-of-resolution and characterization and indirection-in-dialog and all that. To wit, why are these works entertaining and why do we want to read them?

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

I agree with this totally. I don't know what it's like overseas but the Queensland senior school English curriculum spend two years on effing discourses. How does the reader's experiences affect their reading of a text? Then write about intended, alternative and resistant readings. Or do a piece aiming at one of those areas. WE GET IT ALREADY!

I actually think my school does a pretty good job balancing contemporary and classic literature. Where they fail is in that anything contemporary is Australian. There are plenty of amazing Australian authors, but with all the books that are read, and the fact that only a couple of classes do the same book, and that they need to fit in with the course, there are plenty of downright dreadful ones brought in and it's a lottery as to what you get.

One of the state newspapers ran a piece (http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,23899483-3102,00.html) on it.

Jill
08-07-2008, 02:36 PM
I believe that reading, like other good (and bad) habits begins in the home. I came from a family of readers, I passed the habit on to my kids who in turn have passed it on to their kids.
I don't know where or who makes up the stats, but most of my friends read - what we're reading currently is often the basis of our conversation.

dirtsider
08-07-2008, 04:29 PM
I'm wondering - are they talking about books in print or books in general? Did this study include books on tape/CD/ipod? eBooks?

I definitely come from a family of readers. My paternal grandmother did when she visited. Dad never goes anywhere without a book. I don't recall seeing my Mom reading but that doesn't mean she doesn't, just that I haven't seen her doing it. I know one of my sister loves mysteries. One set of cousins didn't have a TV in the house for many years since they were all avid readers.

I think it also helped that one of my teachers, either in 3rd or 4th grade, would read outloud to the class. I particularly remember her reading the Great Brain series. One funny moment came when she stopped for the day in a manner that we had all come to associate with the end of a chapter. So we all asked what the title of the next chapter was. She just laughed and said that it wasn't the end of the chapter, just the end of the reading session for the day.

Alpha Echo
08-07-2008, 04:41 PM
I think parents have a lot to do with it.

My parents both read a LOT. They always have. Growing up, they read to us or had us read to them. We were only allowed a certain amount of time on the computer and in front of the TV every day. We didn't have Nintentdo.

As a result, 4 out of the 5 of us love to read fiction, and the 5th loves to read non-fiction (she's a crazy scientist type who loves to read about genetics and biology. Ick. haha)

I think it's a lot to do with the environment.

My husband is different. He enjoys non-fiction sometimes, but he'd rather be out DOING rather than reading. He grew up with parents who got them involved in projects around the house and took them out to try new things.

I think when/if we have our own children, I want a cross between the two.

Mr Flibble
08-07-2008, 04:46 PM
My parents never read very much -- but I've always had a nose in my book since before I started school. My parents bought me as many books as I liked - even though it wasn't their thing. Every one of my friends reads voraciously - at any given time half my books are on loan to them, and half teh books in my house are borrowed from them.


Thing is - if less people are reading books, how come my local bookshop is always packed?

CaroGirl
08-07-2008, 05:21 PM
There will always be readers. Trends wax and wane. There are people who never read living among people who read 100 books a year. Even if the media change, I predict reading will continue and never die.

I have friends who read all day at work (emails, specification documents, reports) but haven't picked up a novel since high school. When people say, "Oh, I never read," as an avid reader, I struggle to understand what that really means.

CBumpkin
08-07-2008, 08:32 PM
"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." -- Ray Bradbury.

That said, reading will never die. Change, yes, but never die.

It's my opinion that prime time television, cable TV, sitcoms, and "adult" cartoons, and moronic comedies have contributed greatly to the dumbing down of America.

jkcates
08-08-2008, 12:38 AM
In my opinion, high-school English curricula are carefully designed to squelch any genuine interest in books as an entertainment medium. Instead kids are taught to analyze the artistic qualities of arbitrarily-selected "classics" which were generally not written for modern-day audiences and therefore have little to no value as entertainment.

What should be done--and what will probably never be done--is serious study of contemporary entertainment produced for contemporary audiences. Focus on the mechanics of conflict and tension and delay-of-resolution and characterization and indirection-in-dialog and all that. To wit, why are these works entertaining and why do we want to read them?

Let the kids decide in college if they want to pursue the study of literature as art.

Agreed, I think most kids learn to HATE reading as a result of books they cant enjoy. Once they see reading as something only done to pass a test, it is hard to get that mindset changed

jkcates
08-08-2008, 12:55 AM
Source?

One can speculate based on a assumption but it is a little like designing a hat for someone who may not have a head. It assumes not only that most people do not read now, but that once upon a time in a golden age most people did and were better off for it.


Here is some of the info (the actual reports I read are on Jstor and Acedemic Search etc so I cant link for copyright issues). Sorry for not providing more detail sooner but here ya go

Americans are reading less - teens and young adults read less often and for shorter amounts of time compared with other age groups and with Americans of previous years.

Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004.1
On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.2 Americans are reading less well reading scores continue to worsen, especially among teenagers and young males. By contrast, the average reading score of 9-year-olds has improved.

Reading scores for 12th-grade readers fell significantly from 1992 to 2005, with the sharpest declines among lower-level readers.3
2005 reading scores for male 12th-graders are 13 points lower than for female 12th-graders, and that gender gap has widened since 1992.4
Reading scores for American adults of almost all education levels have deteriorated, notably among the best-educated groups. From 1992 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped by 10 points, a 20 percent rate of decline.5Here is a direct link to some of the info (its available to anyone so no copyright issues) http://www.nea.gov/news/news07/TRNR.html

This is a snapshot, but there is a LOT of info about the trend.

Thanks for responding.

TerzaRima
08-08-2008, 02:34 AM
The thing is (let me get out my ear trumpet) a couple of decades ago there wasn't a lot else TO do. We had exactly four TV channels until I was in junior high. Maybe three or four video games had been invented (Atari, anyone?) and they weren't exactly riveting.

I agree that your family plays a role. I don't think parents can force a nonreader to love books, but they can encourage readers in all kinds of ways. My folks rarely splurged on toys for us, but they would get us almost any book we asked for. Plus, they had a way of discouraging less imaginatively demanding activities--one was not allowed to sit inside and watch TV on a sunny day, but if you wanted to hang out inside with a book, that was fine.

Now, I'm astonished at the amount of TV my nieces and patients watch. It's clever and funny TV, most of it, very knowing and hip. But what jolts me is the sheer amount of time these kids spend, full attention on the screen, hands folded, patiently following every detail of the Suite Life of Zack and...I forget. There's something so passive and accepting about it.

Or maybe people back in the day said the same thing about The Electric Company.

bsolah
08-08-2008, 03:41 AM
a) Education is underfunded and therefore literacy isn't as valued anymore, because you don't need to be able to read a novel to operate a machine or pack shelves and b) people are working longer hours and people simply don't have enough time to cook proper meals, spend quality time with the family, exercise, enjoy life, let alone read a novel.

Can you earn a boss a profit by reading the latest King novel? No. So under capitalism it doesn't matter.

Christine N.
08-08-2008, 03:48 AM
The other problem in teaching newer books is cost. The cost for a class set of books is enormous. So they teach the same books over and over, because then there's no additional outlay. Educational budgets are stretched to the limits as it is, there's just no more money to buy class sets of any newer literature.

Where I sub, the sixth graders ARE reading some newer books, like Stargirl, and wonderful books like The Giver, but also read Hatchet, which is a really OLD Gary Paulsen novel. Smaller classes, like the remedial classes, are able to read newer books like Holes and Maniac McGee because only a few copies are needed.

Danger Jane
08-08-2008, 06:25 AM
Definitely. I think there should still be some classics in there, and students should still be expected to look for symbolism, imagery, theme, etc., and dissect literature, but sometimes it goes too far. And there are definitely contemporary books that would be great inclusions to the curriculum. One thing I always wished we could have done is read our own choice of books. Please. Let me have some choice. Don't make me read something as atrocious as Fear's Crow when I can read Alexie. Don't make me read Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice when I can thoroughly enjoy Wuthering Heights. Don't make me read Hemingway when there's Fitzgerald sitting there.

Great point. There could be a little either/or in the curriculum...that would be great. I felt pretty bad for all the guys in the room when the teacher pulled out Pride and Prejudice because even though I think Mr. Darcy's AWESOME, they, uh, probably wouldn't be as enchanted.

When did more than 58% of people read, btw? Maybe for two decades in the middle of the twentieth century? I think it's likely that the statistics upthread are correct about kids, but (as an example) many of my friends who read very little all through school, upon graduating high school, checked out a stack of books from the library and started turning pages. They didn't have the time in school, due to many, many commitments, to read--but they'll probably make the time later in life.

Don Allen
08-08-2008, 07:25 AM
I also think a MAJOR reason people don't read is that the agents and publishers are so afraid to take chances on new writers and new talent that they end up publishing the same old shit every year by the same old authors who wouldn't have a new idea if it bit them in the ass. Harsh? I don't think so. J.K Rowling is proof. This woman damn near didn't get published and yet the potter books have been the biggest thing since sliced bread. The publishing industry has to change fundamentally and offer many more titles and varieties and get away from the Clancy, King, Collins, mega authors who in their heyday produced great books but then get locked into big buck contracts that dillute and rehash their work, people are fickle, how many times do you want to read "Patriot Games" under a different title. I'm not trying to pick on these very successfull people, I'm pointing out that the industry has to spread the wealth and take a lot more chances, and agents need to be taken out of the equation, because the industry has come to solely rely on the expertise of the agent to pick through thousands of submissions for that one book, and the agents I've met or talked to, including some pretty famous ones admit, they don't have a clue....

bsolah
08-08-2008, 07:33 AM
Don, it would be nice if they'd take risks. The sad reality is that publishing is yet another business based on profit. They only care about guaranteeing their bottom line. It doesn't matter about the quality of work.

Don Allen
08-08-2008, 07:40 AM
Exactly, according to PW the industry is taking a beating on a daily basis. Even the industry knows it stuck in a rut so they keep throwing money at the known authors hoping for a hit from a known quantity, but the truth is that they may be passing on massive amounts of revenue from people such as those here, who can't even get a read. It really has to change...

bsolah
08-08-2008, 07:45 AM
But then we start getting into topics beyond just writing and publishing because publishing isn't isolated from the rest of the economy and as we all know the economy is heading towards a severe crisis.

benbradley
08-08-2008, 09:58 AM
...
Here is a direct link to some of the info (its available to anyone so no copyright issues) http://www.nea.gov/news/news07/TRNR.html

This is a snapshot, but there is a LOT of info about the trend.

Thanks for responding.
I read the "Executive Summary" PDF from that page and found it quite enlightening, for example the correlation of test scores in science, civics and history with the number of books at home, page 10. I should have children, as I have lots of books, and I can't imagine one I wouldn't let a child read. On the other hand, I can afford lots of books because I have no children...

a) Education is underfunded and therefore literacy isn't as valued anymore, because you don't need to be able to read a novel to operate a machine or pack shelves and b) people are working longer hours and people simply don't have enough time to cook proper meals, spend quality time with the family, exercise, enjoy life, let alone read a novel.

Can you earn a boss a profit by reading the latest King novel? No. So under capitalism it doesn't matter.
I see that as an extremely short-sighted and limited view of capitalism. And you might want to read pages 14-15 of that Executive Summary, where it talks about reading and employment opportunities from both employers and employees' points of view. Here's the direct URL, for your convenience:
http://www.nea.gov/research/ToRead_ExecSum.pdf

Danger Jane
08-08-2008, 09:40 PM
If publishers didn't push top sellers, where would the money to look for new voices come from? Publishers like big names because readers like big names. The thing is--many of them don't EXCLUSIVELY like big names. They'll read a book by a new, up and coming author, then read the next James Patterson. Of course, many casual readers will only read the next James Patterson, but hasn't it always been that way?

Andreya
08-09-2008, 10:06 PM
lol I had to chuckle as I read the name of this thread... :)

The death of reading?!!! - not bloody likely!!!!! (excuse me the strong language :))

With internet & text messages, our youth are reading MORE than ever!!!! :)
/not always the most appropriate things but they DO read!!/

Also, I know only 2 people who don't read, & they do sometimes get bored a lot. Ha!
/& may even read magazines or a book of utmost interest - either on biology/birds or dating!/

Well, about books in high school era. I didn't have that much time for reading then or at the Uni either.. I read a lot in primary school & after University... or in holidays.. & although I loved reading, some of the 'required reading' books were just terrible, yeah...
& some books may be totally appropriate for girls & terrible for guys, so this should be sort of taken into account, or different angles emphasised to m/f parts of the class...

PS I hate James Patterson lol. I can see why he's so successful though, so, respect. :)

Elwolf
08-09-2008, 11:23 PM
I learned to love reading in elementary school. I usually have friends that love reading as much as I do, so everyone I know loves to read anyway.

High school really does suck the fun out of reading, though. Most of the books we read are just to take a test on, not so that we can learn to enjoy them. We always have to answer a lot of repeat questions while we read, which makes it very hard to actually get into the book in the first place!

jkcates
08-09-2008, 11:30 PM
The other problem in teaching newer books is cost. The cost for a class set of books is enormous. So they teach the same books over and over, because then there's no additional outlay. Educational budgets are stretched to the limits as it is, there's just no more money to buy class sets of any newer literature.

Where I sub, the sixth graders ARE reading some newer books, like Stargirl, and wonderful books like The Giver, but also read Hatchet, which is a really OLD Gary Paulsen novel. Smaller classes, like the remedial classes, are able to read newer books like Holes and Maniac McGee because only a few copies are needed.


Of course this leads me to ask another question based on your post. Since you obviously work in a school system, and see firsthand some of the issues, why IS the budget stretched so thin? I hear all the time about how "cash poor" our schools are, and yet we spend more money per student than any country on earth....
So.. given that we keep falling behind everyone else, where is this money going? I am not making an accusation or anything, I just really would like to know where the incredible amounts of money we spend on education actually end up? Maybe answering that question would help answer the literacy/lack of reading one.

Thanks

jkcates
08-09-2008, 11:44 PM
When did more than 58% of people read, btw? Maybe for two decades in the middle of the twentieth century? I think it's likely that the statistics upthread are correct about kids, but (as an example) many of my friends who read very little all through school, upon graduating high school, checked out a stack of books from the library and started turning pages. They didn't have the time in school, due to many, many commitments, to read--but they'll probably make the time later in life.


To answer your question about adult literacy, I am posting the link to the research done the National Center for Education Statistics below.

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2006/section2/table.asp?tableID=470

Minister
08-10-2008, 12:48 AM
A couple things to remember in the context of this discussion:

Correlation doesn't necessarily imply causation. See Freakonomics. Just because having a lot of books in the house and getting good grades in reading happen to the same person doesn't mean that one caused the other, necessarily. But as far as that goes, there doesn't even seem to be a straightforward correlation between how much money is spent per child and how well they do with reading.

Next, I'd be interested in seeing a comparison of reading statistics between people educated in the public school system, secular private schools, religious private schools, and homeschools. My observation is that homeschoolers on average (have more experience with them, having been one and all) vastly outstrip the general population in their inclination to read and in most quantifiable measurements of reading ability. Will alternative forms of education, not having the same limitations and constrictions imposed by governmental bureaucracies, end up contributing to the salvation of reading in the US?

roncouch
08-10-2008, 05:07 AM
I know this has probably been stated before, but it seems a worrisome trend. I have been studying the reading rates for my degree (I want to teach high school English - no snickers please) and have really been shocked.
58% of adults do not read a book after high school (U.S.)
And of the remaining 42%, something like half do not read regularly (i.e. at least two books a year).
Now of course these are simply measurements of Book reading, and does not account for magazines, blogs etc.
But there certainly seems a trend of non-reading going on, and, as writers, I wondered what some thoughts were on why this is happening.
Is it merely due to more offerings now... i.e. internet, television, game boys (you get the picture)
OR
Is it something more fundemental. Are kids growing up to become non-reading adults for other reasons? (maybe reading is only associated with school work and reports for instance)
If the trends keep up, it seems the market for writers will as well. Making the already faniciful idea of supporting ones self as a writer even more a pipe dream.

Just wanting some thoughts,
Thanks

I'm not real sure, JK, why certain people seem to have little interest in reading books. I love to read, but when younger did not. Perhaps maturing helped me. I know some youngsters who would rather have an I-pod or cell phone attached to their head rather than read, but think there are many others - young and old, who still love to curl up with a good old-fashioned book. Books, and authors, are going to be around - and the good ones will do quite well for many moons.