Monday, November 19, 2007

Literacy, is it just reading?

The National Endowment for the Arts says Americans are reading less. Here are the numbers:

Half of 18 to 24 year olds never read a book for pleasure. Americans 15 to 24 spend an average of 7 to 10 minutes a day on voluntary reading, 60% less than the average American. Reading scores for 17 year olds have dropped.

Given that 58% of middle and high school students listen to music, watch TV, or use other media, some say literacy is more than reading: a better definition would include multimedia. But the NEA says the downturn in reading trends correlates "to fewer job opportunities, lost wages, higher incarceration rates and less participation in civic and community life, including voting and volunteering." Just what we need to compete effectively with China.

In life, one person can make all the difference in the world. With reading, the same may be said of a book: Reading scores for 9-year-olds are at an all-time high. Call it the Harry Potter effect: JK Rowling just may be saving Western civilization as we know it.

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