Why Don’t We Read?

I love to read. There’s almost nothing better than getting lost in a different world for hours or days at a time. Before advances in technology, reading was essential for entertainment. However, as new technological advances developed, it almost seemed like reading began to be viewed as a lesser form of enjoyment. Television, movies, video games, and the Internet have become larger sources of entertainment than books once were. To put it simply, people just don’t read as much as they used to.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are plenty of people out there who still love the pure enjoyment of sitting down with a book and reading. However, it is still a bit troubling how many people ignore the simple pleasures of books. Now, I will say that I can only speak for what I have experienced in the United States. I haven’t been many places abroad, so I’m not sure how every society values reading and books. However, in the American society, most people crave instant gratification and technology has brought about these new, quick ways to deliver entertainment. To some, watching reality television and scrolling through Facebook is more enjoyable than reading. I cringe at the thought, but I had started to get used to it. That is, until I stumbled upon a set of harrowing statistics.

What if there is another reason why Americans don’t read? What if the reason why we don’t read is because, as a country, we can’t read?

I realize how ridiculous that question sounds. How can one of the most advanced countries in the world have a literacy problem? Well, there may be some truth to it.

According to the Literary Project Foundation, 50% of adults cannot read above an 8th grade reading level. 45 million are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a 5th grade reading level. To me, that is eye opening.

I’m not sure if there is one single reason for this lack of literacy, but it would explain why we don’t value books like we used to. With television, movies, and video games, little to no reading is required. On the Internet, almost everything can be abbreviated and knowing how to spell is almost unnecessary with spell check. If half of American adults can’t read above an 8th grade level, it makes sense that our society would begin to lean on these other forms of entertainment.

There’s just one big problem with finding new alternatives to reading: many children will begin to do the same. It’s been shown that children who read with their parents at home can read on a higher reading level in school. Well, if the parents can’t or won’t read with their children, the children will lose this opportunity to excel. Not only that, but if a child grows up watching their parents value television and the Internet over books, they will mimic this. These children will grow up and continue the cycle and these illiteracy numbers will only continue to grow.

So what can we do about this reading crisis in a society that has the attention span to only read one 140 character blurb at a time before scrolling onto the next thing? I honestly don’t think there is an easy answer. If you are a reader, definitely try to encourage those around you to pick up a book and read. If you have a friend who is not a reader, recommend a book that is being made into a feature film. From what I’ve seen, non-readers are more willing to pick up a book that is becoming a movie before they will pick up a book that isn’t. This might form some sort of habit and your friend will be better off. If you have old books that you need to clear out, consider donating them instead of selling them. People on welfare or people who live in poverty are more likely to be illiterate. Donating books will give people with lower incomes the opportunity to have access to books they might not have been able to afford. Lastly, keep reading. Not only is it enjoyable, but it’s a privilege that not everyone has.

Until next week,

Debbie

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