I read an article today that gave the following statistics:
- 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives
- 42 percent of college grads never read another book after college
- 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year
- 57 percent of books aren't read to completion
These stats were provided by a writers' workshop, so obviously they have a little motivation to scare people into thinking that they need the workshop's help to stand out and get their book read. But there has to be some level of truth there, and it scares me to no end. Are we really not finishing almost 3/5 of the books we start? Has our attention span gotten that bad? I'm especially surprised by the statistic about only 20% of families buying or reading a book last year. It is absolutely shocking actually.
Erin and I were both voracious readers growing up. We loved books and still do. We love words and how they can be used. How stories can be formed and spark imagination. Erin's dad read to her every night before bed, so that would explain why she grew to love it so much. I didn't really have the same experience, but I became a reader nonetheless. I just love the written word, and I can remember reading by flashlight in my room or campfire during family trips. I loved weekly trips to the library in elementary school. I read whatever I could get my hands on from comic books to the bible. In fact my brother was just going on the other day about how I was always content to read in the face of any activities that he deemed more worthy. Books and the stories within have shaped me as a person. Heck what would I know about parenting if not for What to Expect (a little sarcasm there but not as much as you'd think)?
I'm not surprised that books have lost their appeal to other forms of media like TV, movies, music, video games and the internets. Those are so much sexier on paper than books (HA get it?), but it seems so foreign to me that there are people out there that don't read anything. Books contain our history and all of our greatest stories. Granted I don't sit down and curl up with a good book nearly as often as I'd like, but that hasn't stopped Erin and me carrying on her dad's tradition of reading to Grace and Ana every night before bed. That has to count towards that total, right? Yet there are four times as many families that aren't doing this.
I can't wait until I start reading the leather-bound copies of Alice in Wonderland, Grimm's Fairy Tales and other books that are longer than a few pages to my girls, and I really can't wait for them to read them back to me. I love movies and television, but I don't want my girls to be force-fed their stories through these mediums. They deserve better than that. Their imaginations are so much more capable and shouldn't be stunted. And I don't want this love of words and reading to be a passing fad. I don't want the last day they actually need to read a book to be the last day they pick one up. I want that love to carry on beyond high school and college.
I'll make sure that books will always be a part of our house, and I'm sure Erin will do the same. We'll always encourage our kids to read anything they can get their hands on just like mom and dad. We don't want to be in that 80%, so we'll always have books for our girls throughout the house ready to be read.