A few interesting articles have surfaced in the last few days regarding reading. According to an AP poll, about 25% of American adults surveyed said they have not read a single book in the last year. [h-t: Rick]
One in four. So, all things being statistically equal, if I go to a sell-out baseball game here in Houston, with a crowd of 40,000 adults in the building [removing kids from the equation and adding in stadium attendants], I could look around at the vast sections of seats and say that 10,000 people in that room have not read a single book in the previous 12 months.
That statistic depresses me. It also frightens me a little.
The pastor in the church where I grew up said over and over again, "Readers are leaders." It was instilled in me, and I believe it. So when I see that, according to this poll, a quarter of the American population doesn't read books at all, it makes me wonder who's leading and who's willing to be led.
Another article: Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, says that liberals read more books than conservatives because conservatives want bumper-sticker slogans. [h-t: PW]
According to Ms. Schroeder's logic, us dum Republkens cant unnerstan longur peeses.
And how does she arrive at this conclusion? Because, on average, of those who read books, liberals read ONE more book per year than conservatives do. One book is the difference between "peeling the onion" and bumper-stickerism. Wow. I'm sure her personal ideology has NOTHING to do with that assessment, does it? (Bonus points to her for the unwarranted Karl Rove name-drop. Good on ya, Pat. Stick to the script!)
Curious additional information: According to this poll, those who identify as moderates who read books only average about 5 books a year. What's their problem? My guess--indecision.
So where do I fall in this spectrum?
First, I would self-identify as a "conservative," so that means, on average I'd expect to read 8 books a year.
Last year, I read 47 books. This year, I'm hoping to come close to the same number (though I may take a month off of reading books in September--more on that later, perhaps). Year before last, I read 28. Before that, 28 also.
So no, I'm not typical. I'm the kid who got in trouble for staying up too late reading. I'd sneak a flashlight into my room and read under the covers for hours. Recently, our church had a video retrospective to honor the church library volunteers; a teenaged Teacherdave popped up in the picture montage. I own hundreds of books. I have a "to-be-read" shelf that usually hovers around 50 books, and is constantly being replenished. I hang around used bookstores. I love the smell of new ink.
The thing is, I know I'm not typical, but I shouldn't be so much of an anomaly. In the history of man, we've only had affordable books available to the common populace for about 200 years or so. Before that, they were the privilege of the elite of society. It just bothers me that we take this for granted. There is so much to learn, so much to experience, and we so often shut ourselves away from that because we're too lazy or bored or distracted.
How bad is it getting? Did you notice that even that CNN article linked earlier had a list of bullet-points to summarize the article? How hard is it to read an article with 41 sentences???
Maybe I'm strange. But if I ever have children (and I hope to), I'm going to be turning off the TV (hopefully, there will be no "Yo Gabba Gabba" with which to terrorize toddlers) and sticking books into my kids' hands. Because I still believe it: readers are leaders.
[Incidentally, the reverse is true: leaders are often readers. According to this article, President Bush has already read 60 books this year. *cue sarcastic comments about not counting coloring books*]
What about you? Do you read books? If so, how often and what kinds? If not, why not? Drop me some knowledge in the comments.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head home.
My plans for the evening?
Why, reading a good book, naturally.