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Johnny CAN read, he’s just not interested anymore

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In a thoroughly depressing report put out by the National Endowment for the Arts, we find out that reading, especially among young adults, is becoming less and less common.

    The decline was especially great among the youngest people surveyed, ages 18 to 24. Only 43 percent had read any literature in 2002, down from 53 percent in 1992.

I was not surprised by this, nor by what is discussed as the main culprit: electronic media in all of its forms including television (nothing new there) and internet usage. Yep, I’ve seen it first hand. Kids spending hours and hours playing computer games or watching downloaded movies, sometimes while instant messaging their friends.

It’s too early to tell how this will impact society as a whole but it’s my belief that this phenomenon is a major factor in school ‘performance’ (however you’d like to define that term.) If we can figure out a way to make reading cool again (and just maybe the Harry Potter generation will change this) it would go a long way toward improving how kids learn: Much more so than any battery of standardized tests.

The report can be downloaded in PDF format here.

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • I haven’t read the report (pul-eeze, can we just get a summary like the rest of the ruling class), but I guess they discount cereal boxes, instructions on scratch and win tickets, and weblogs.

    What, they esspek me to read how some billcosby-oid tells me I’m not worth the stank of his gold-plated arse? Suck me grits thro a straw you cobnobbler.

  • I think another major culprit is a general lack of spare time to read. Between work, school, routine everyday chores, and maintaining some semblance of a social life, most young adults simply do not have enough hours in a day to read, even if they were so inclined.

  • Distorted Angel

    I took a look at the report, and as an avid reader who can’t imagine a life without books, I also find it disheartening. One thing parents can do for their children is model reading behavior themselves. I’ve heard too many parents bemoaning the fact that their kids don’t read, and in the next breath admit that they themselves aren’t readers. My son, who’s 18 now, reads a lot. He also surfs the web, plays video games, and is as much a card-carrying member of the MTV generation as his peer group, but he grew up surrounded by books, was read to every night as a small child, and watches both his parents read on pretty much a daily basis. We trade books back and forth and discuss them at the dinner table. If parents make reading a part of everyday family life, I think the chances are better than even that their kids will turn out to be readers. Of course, the report points out that reading is declining across all age groups, so I’m not sure who gets to motivate the grown-ups…