Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Death of Reading

Boing Boing recently directed me towards this NEAreport on the decline of reading in America. It's a depressing but informative read. According to the report, 10 percent less of the adult population read literature now than twenty years ago, dropping the total amount of adult literature readers to less than half the population.

Reading at Risk is not a report that the National Endowment for the Arts is happy to issue. This comprehensive survey of American literary reading presents a detailed but bleak assessment of the decline of reading’s role in the nation’s culture. For the first time in modern history, less than half of the adult population now reads literature, and these trends reflect a larger decline in other sorts of reading. Anyone who loves literature or values the cultural, intellectual, and political importance of active and engaged literacy in American society will respond to this report with grave concern.

This leads me to ask the question, "what has replaced reading?" A couple of ideas comes to mind. First, adults might be working more now than, well, anytime since the start of "modern history". But I think that answer is lame. I believe it has been replaced by, bet you guessed it, Television. But, I don't know if that is such a bad thing. Watching shows like LOST can force people to critically think as well as engage in cultural, intellectual and political activities.

People see these statistics and freak-out and to some degree I understand. But, we can now put books on tape/CD or watch TV or movies and get an amazing amount of information. The new media should not be feared, it should be embraced.


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