Archive for December, 2007

The Decline of Reading?

December 1, 2007

I subscribe to The Week magazine, and I really like it. The editorial in this week’s issue (December 7, 2007; Volume 7; Issue 339) is about the downward trend in how much people are reading printed materials. The editor-in-chief, William Falk, makes some statements in it that got me thinking.

The statement that initially gave me pause is, “Two-thirds of all college freshman said they almost never read a book or an article outside of their schoolwork.” Thinking back (way back?) to my freshman year, I don’t think I had much time at all for personal reading. First year in the School of Engineering at OSU is a “weed-out” year – meaning the courses are packed with students and they want the less-committed to leave the program by year two. Lots of work to do, lots of required reading.

If you had to read several thick chapters in each of four courses every week, how would you spend your free time? Would you pick up another book? And don’t forget that studying text books is mentally taxing in ways that reading novels and periodicals for pleasure simply doesn’t match.

To further argue the point, he’s talking about freshman year students. Many of these students are away from home for the first time – in a new, and usually very social, world. I would guess that such an environment makes solitary activities like reading less desirable all by itself. Add to that a new level of course work, and I’m amazed that as much as one-third are reading for pleasure.

The editorial’s references to the Web, iPods, laptops, social networking and their ilk make me suspect that similar opinions were posited and observations made throughout the past. 24-hour cable TV, regular network TV, radio, and even (printed!) comic books were probably decried as harbingers of the end of an era of true literacy.

That being said, I do wish I had more time to read, and I think most people would benefit if they read a little more offline print, as well. So, stop reading my blog and go pick up a book. And read it with some MP3s playing in the background.