Friday, August 24, 2007

One out of Four??

I read in the newspaper the other day that according to an AP poll, one in four American adults didn't read a single book last year. This poll found that the average person read four books in 2006. People give a lot of different reasons for not reading more books, but the study directly faulted television, movies and the Internet. According to publishing company analysts this downward trend is not new and is certainly expected to continue indefinitely.

Well. I don't even know where to start on this one.

How about here? I'm a reader, born to a reader, married to a reader also born to a reader. Together we have raised readers. Two of my children were reading at the college level by the time they were in fifth grade and the other one (just started in fifth grade) hasn't been tested out yet. My gut tells me he's there too. My eldest tested at a post-college level in second grade. I'm not saying they're brilliant. (I have lots of stories to refute that theory). I'm just saying that they love to read. And they have the vocabulary and the imagination to prove it.

I've always loved a good book. I admit it was tough when my kids were smaller and my attention span was suspect, but I managed. I know I read less, but I still read. For a while magazines were my fall back since the articles could be read during a nap or Power Rangers. But as my kids got older and more self-sufficient, I was more able to go back to my old ways. I've never looked back. I read off and on during any given day and every single night before I go to sleep. I can't not do it.

It can be tricky sometimes with time constraints and other demands. It should be obvious to all that I spend more time on the Internet than maybe I should, and once the kids get home from school I pretty much run like a dog for the rest of the day. But I fit it in for one primary reason. Because I want to. My kids are well taken care of and not lacking for my attention. I'm sure my house could be cleaner, my meals more gourmet and my spice rack better organized, but I don't really give a rat's ass about those things for the most part. My house is usually tidy, my family eats healthy (usually from scratch) meals and why organize anything when your house is full of boys who pick everything up absent mindedly and move it someplace absurd? My cumin would be in the tool drawer. Why bother?

There's a blog I really love called Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. To say that her life is not like my life is quite the understatement(although she and the Film Geek did go to the same college), but I read her every day and enjoy the heck out of her. She did a post last week about how she's not a reader but that she had recently picked up a book and gotten sucked in and was now thinking about reading more. I'm all for that, of course, but what really interested me were the comments from people about this post. She has something like half a billion people reading her blog on a daily basis it seems, and I could be wrong, but I think her readers are a pretty diverse group. The comments certainly reflected it. There were (in my mind anyway) an appalling number of people who proudly said they never read books, if not in their entire life at least in their recent memory. And of course there were the ones like me, who squeeze books into the smallest corners of their days, who asked her nicely what in the world she was thinking. But they were the minority. It may not have been a landslide, but it was pretty clear. Our side lost.

These people are obviously readers as they're reading a blog. People read things all day long, from the instructions on how to put the fan together to how to find the channel you want on your thousand channel satellite dish to other people's blogs. It's not that they can't read a book, it's that they don't. It's the "don't" part that baffles me. I just "don't" get it.

As I finish this I'm off to the library to restock for the next week. Thanks to a recommendation from Akelamalu I've just finished my first Karin Slaughter forensic mystery and loved it. I'm headed to get more. Thanks for the tip, Akelamalu!

Finally, on the subject of reading, has everyone who was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finished? Can we dish??

I'm off my soapbox now. You can get on with your regularly scheduled lives.


my two cents said...

It is strange how you and Jen are cosmically connected, or did you both plan to write about reading today??

Yes, I finished HP and the DH. So we can begin talking about it. I was wondering when you were going to bring that up.

I'm not an avid reader, but I have certainly read more than four books in a year, most of them recommended by the fifteen-year-old girl. I read some at work, some interesting, some not so interesting. I have become obsessed about reading blogs--Thanks, RC. And I read lots of instructions and patterns because I like sewing and making things.

Is putting the cumin in the tool box akin to putting a key in a watermelon?

p.s. second word: wdxfocop. I'm not even going to speculate, but sounds like something an ER patient might say to the blue uniformed escort...

Stacie said...

For my seventh graders, one of the first library lessons of the year is how to select a book. You would not believe how many of them do not know how! (They tend to look for skinny book spines as the selection tool.) It always shocks me and makes me so very sad. Even sadder is the fact that many of my kids read at a 3rd or 4th grade level.

Seems like they are so used to a passive thrill that they are frustrated by books--I guess the energy it takes to read is just too much (yeah right).

The avid reader is becoming more and more rare...

I finished HP also!

ciara said...

i'm usually the one out of 4 who hasn't read a book this year, except i did manage to read two. albeit, they were nothing of substance. just mere trashy romance novels. lol some ppl are just not brother, my youngest, my husband, and his son are proof of that. my older two love 20 yr old was reading college material when he was younger as well. luckily, my youngest isn't a total lost cause in the reading foray because she does read a bit above's just getting her to focus is a bit more difficult. lol

why do i feel guilty for not reading more books all of a sudden? : /

Flowerpot said...

I can't imagine life without books. Born of readers, married to a reader - no, I can't get my head round it at all!

Mya said...

Interesting topic RC - and one close to my heart. I read a fair bit, I'd like the time to read more. I come from a family of avid readers - on our recent camping trip at any one time there were six of us reading a book (it wasn't as dull as it sounds!) I'm going to start sounding like an old fart now, but I think the 'instant' 'I want it now' culture doesn't help books at all. At the very least, you have to commit time to a book. Stacie's comment about the passive thrill seems sad but true - you have to engage a little to read a book, invest something of yourself.

Blogs (which I love) are probably popular because they dish out bite-sized manageable portions of easily digestible material - not necessarily a bad thing, in a sense that's how Charles Dickens got started, writing episodic serialisations in the press. But there has to be some balance. There's no substitute for a good book.

Mya x
Currently reading The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, having just finished The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell.

ciara said...

p.s. i don't like to watch much t.v. w the exception of my guilty pleasures..project runway, top model. the computer's been boring me a lot now, too. i blog here n there, check email...not much else. damn my life is boring. lol

Jen said...

LOL, we must be cosmically connected. It's no secret that we love books in this house. TFYO has had books around since she was a "zero" year-old. Our collection numbers in the four-hundred range. TFYO probably has a hundred to herself.

Reading used to let me excape some pretty awful times when I was a kid. It was wonderful. And nothing gives me greater joy than watching my child read to other people.

My husband likes non-fiction, and I do, too, but I also like fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, and pretty much anything I can get my hands on.

I honestly don't get people who are so proud that they don't read books. I can understand not having time to read, but deliberately not reading baffles me.

code word: wisyv...which is a repeat! They've run out of code words!

Jen said...

Oh, and I finished HP ages ago! Let's pick a place and start to dish!

laurie said...

ah i saw that story, too. it's disheartening, especially when there are SO many books out there on every imaginable topic. (the books editor at my paper gets about 100 unsolicited review books in the mail every single day. it's sobering to think that once i finally write a book and get it published, it'll get lost in the crowd.

my nephews started a "competitive reading club" a couple of years ago. i joined last year--all you do is report to them every month on what books you read that month. you give a five-word review, and give each book a starred rating

the club costs $10 to join, and at the end of the year the winner gets all the $$ in the form of an amazon gift certificate. (i won last year with somewhere around 80 books total.)

anyway, my nephews' younger brother joined this year, which is so very cool. he's NOT a reader. he NEVER reads. but he wants to keep up with his brothers, so he's been reading a book a month all year. when i was in california over the weekend i gave him a book, and he's already 50 pages into it.

it's thrilling to see him get off his skateboard and change in this way.

i think everyone should join a competitive reading club!

laurie said...

ps haven't finished harry potter but haven't started it, either, and likely won't. (is that a thunderclap i hear?)

so go ahead. but i probably won't comment on those posts.

Diana said...

Talk away on HP and the DH.

I often feel it'd be easier for me to give up breathing than give up reading. An exaggeration, yes, but not by as much as one might think. I probably fall asleep without reading twice each year. I try to carve out time in the afternoons that I'm home to just curl up and read (and have a bit of a nap) just because my soul is so much more at peace when I've done so.

So I hear you. Currently, I'm reading The Subtle Knife, the second book in the Phillip Pullman trilogy, recommended by another blog friend.

Akelamalu said...

Oooo I love reading. Did I tell you I read 8 (yes eight)books on my two week holiday recently?

Glad you enjoyed Karin Slaughter, you would enjoy Patricia Cornwell too more forensic mystery.

I'm into Jeffery Deaver at the moment and I love autobiographies.

Pixel Pi said...

Another constant reader raising her hand here. I can't remember not being able to read. Just. Can't. Stop. And neither can Mr. Pi. Let's just say run with wild abandon through bookstores, and even spent a weekend in Chicago once centered on hitting every bookstore (new & used) in the city. Go on with your HP chat. Have never read any of them. Currently reading an Elizabeth George and a Steven Saylor. Still staring at Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy on my reading table. Gulp. That's next.

Kaycie said...

I think readers are born that way. My mother (not a reader) says I learned to read by watching Sesame Street and using a newspaper. She tells a story about finding me reading words from the opinion pages at four. My kids were luckier, our house is full of books and all three have loved them since they could begin turning pages.

I do find we go through cycles, reading more sometimes than others. But there are some things we just make time for. We moved into our new house the day Harry Potter arrived in the mail. My 16 year old daughter managed to read it in just two days while moving boxes and unpacking her bedroom. She loved it.

Happy in the Abyss said...

I read 1 1/2.

Dumdad said...

Ah, the pleasures of reading. We're a family of readers and that's great. Brainbox is the captain of the team and his reading has been phenomenal since he was very young; in English or French it makes no difference to him. He reads while brushing his teeth...

Yes, we've all read the latest HP so start the chinwagging...

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Oh my gosh, do I love all these comments or what?? Thanks to everyone for chiming in. I was afraid I was a little too soap boxy, but this is a subject dear to my heart.

To all of the readers - thanks for making me feel like I'm not a freak. (At least not in this particular area)

and to the ones feeling bad about not reading so much - the last thing in the world I would want to do is make someone feel guilty about anything. (I get all of that I can handle with my kids). Besides, you read the important blogs!

kaycie - welcome and thanks for stopping in! It's nice to have you here.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the great Harry Potter recap. I'm ready!

Kaycie said...

Thanks for the warm welcome. I found you through Laurie this morning. Enjoyed every word.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Blimey RC I feel like I should be sat on the naughty chair for coming into class late.

We too are a family of readers.
I come from readers, while Mr B does not, but he reads avidly, and we both love reading to the girls.

I also read everyday, even if it means staying up way past my bedtime.
I can't imagine life without books.

Glad you like Karin Slaughter.
Linda Fairstein is good too, and I agree on Patricia Cornwell Akelamalu.

I finished Harry Potter a while ago too so am definitely up for discussion.

I loved it.

P.S. Come and visit again, you have an award.