Are people reading less? Government survey says: yes
. Declines in how much and how well people read “are adversely affecting this country's culture, economy, and civic life as well as our children's educational achievement.” Also the cause of poor test scores
. Steve Jobs
agrees: Kindle DOA because nobody reads books anymore. WaPo
says 1 in 4 persons read no books in 2006. And children didn't keep reading after they got through Harry Potter, either
So literacy's in a long slow decline.
The NEA survey has been completely shredded in the blogs
; the survey focused on literary reading with a book in your hands, totally excluding anything like, say, spending hours on MeFi. Or, say, reading anything from here
. This is odd because the NEA survey placed so much emphasis on whether people read for pleasure
. They should check in with the NEH, which is helping to create on-line archives
for your reading pleasure.
Jobs’s take on the data is challenged here
. Some people read a lot of books. ¾ people read at least one. A little self-serving Steve? What about all that reading (and spelling) people need to use your computers? That wouldn’t show up in the survey either.
And the widely repeated story about children not reading more after Harry Potter: mostly impressions and “expert” opinion. The only data are about how much children report they read “for fun." After they’ve finished their ton of homework, practiced violin, sent a dozen text messages and updated their MySpace pages.
So are people reading less? If book reading is being replaced by other forms of reading it’s bad news for the publishing industry but won’t necessarily make society stupid. Maybe what and how we’re reading is changing, not how much.
But you know, that might not be saying much because the baseline is so low: the US comes out poorly in cross-national comparisons
of literacy levels. And that's not good.