A new report from the NEA reveals that reading is on the rise among Americans. From Dana Gioia, Chairman of the NEA:
“For the first time in over a quarter-century, our survey shows that literary reading has risen among adult Americans. After decades of declining trends, there has been a decisive and unambiguous increase among virtually every group measured in this comprehensive national survey.”
Gioia is optimistic about the results.”Cultural decline is not inevitable,” he argues. “For those of us who have studied the impact of active and engaged literacy on the lives of individuals and communities, Reading on the Rise provides inspiring news.”
Print and electronic media are buzzing about the NEA report. A Google news search reveals 42 publications reporting on the news, with the Google blog search uncovering over 2,000 blogs talking about the topic.
The Washington Post’s Ann Patchett echoes Gioia’s excitement and emphasizes the importance of reading. “Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone,” she explains. “It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.”
Others are more cautious about what the results of the NEA’s report mean and take issue with the study’s design. Kassia Krozser over at Booksquare says of the report, “It defines reading very narrowly. Not only does it refuse to acknowledge that there are many readers who read for pleasure but don’t read “literary” works — think of those readers who derive great enjoyment from a steady diet of, oh, historical biography — but it doesn’t explore different types of reading.”
Brandon from Flap Copy questions the study’s lack of differentiation in the type of reading performed by participants. “The cautionary wisdom of Mark Twain keeps running through my mind,” he writes. “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
Over at the Higher Ed blog, David Eubanks has written an interesting piece in which he argues that digital media are rapidly replacing print media. While electronic texts are becoming increasingly popular, Eubanks argues our interactions with the printed word are turning away from “reading” and towards “viewing.”
He examines the future of college textbooks in light of this shift, proposing that technical disciplines will easily make the shift to electronic alternatives in the future, but courses that require lengthy readings and intense concentration will still fall back on the printed page. He writes,
Imagine a best case, where you are curled up with a computer with a big beautifully optimized screen for reading. You open up A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch and begin reading where you left off. Then an icon at the bottom of the screen flickers–you have a new facebook message. Or your calendar pops up with a reminder that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Or (more likely) Windows wants to reboot itself because it just downloaded a patch. If your mind wanders at all, you may want to google a strange word, or look up Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s biography. Now imagine trying to do the same with an organic chemistry textbook instead, where more discipline is required to stay on task.
Click the link below to read more interesting stories and reports from January!
Karen Williams over at World Net Daily reports on Judge Michael A. Wolff and Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz’s open letter to President Barack Obama. She writes
Our prison system’s overcrowded facilities, soaring costs, high racial disparity and two-thirds recidivism rate certainly warrant the concern that Judges Wolff and De Muniz express. And their proposed reforms target the heart of the crisis we face: harsh sentencing guidelines that rely too much on incarceration as a tool for crime reduction and mandatory minimum laws that eliminate all reasonable discretion from the sentencing process….Wolff and De Muniz’s evaluation of our sentencing practices and recommended reforms are exactly what we need to hear in an age when being “tough on crime” rather than smart on crime is still in vogue.
- Physorg.com reports on how brain scans reveal that readers build vivid mental simulations of narrative situations
- On Fiction‘s Kirsten Valentine Cadieux writes about parallels between brain (a)symmetry and reading ability in her post “Reading and the Brain: Symmetry and the Emulation of Good Writing.”
- Jeff Gerritt at the Detroit Free Press celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day with an article reminding us on how King’s legacy calls for reform of our criminal justice system.