The Guardian provides an interesting analysis of the National Endowment for the Arts study, called To Read Or Not To Read, which chronicles in exhaustive statistical detail the waning of literary culture and its dire consequences for American society.
To Read or Not To Read expands the investigation of the NEA’s landmark 2004 report, Reading at Risk. While that report focused mainly on literary reading trends, To Read or Not To Read looks at all varieties of reading, including fiction and nonfiction genres in various formats such as books, magazines, newspapers, and online reading. Whereas the earlier report assessed reading among adults age 18 and older, To Read or Not To Read analyzes reading trends for youth and adults, and readers of various education levels. To Read or Not To Read is unique for its consideration of reading habits alongside other behaviors and related outcomes including academic achievement, employment, and community involvement.
No need to throw our hands up in despair. It seems that Google-gen kids who have grown up spending their leisure time on computers rather than slouched in from of the TV are the least violent, the most politically engaged and the most entrepreneurial since the dawn of the television era.
Actually the whole ‘statistical number-crunching’ about literacy, reading and books is nicely challenged in this Guardian article by writer Steven Johnson (author of Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter and The Ghost Map).
My favourite bit:
And of course we are writing more, and writing in public for strangers: novel readers may have declined by 10%, but the number of bloggers has gone from zero to 25 million. Simply excising screen-based reading from the study altogether is like doing a literacy survey circa 1500 and only counting the amount of time people spent reading scrolls.