I recently read an article in Freedom Magazine (which can be found here) in which it is discussed the sad but true fact that less and less people are reading books. This is not talking about how people prefer to read digitally. No, this article shows some disturbing numbers that reflect humanity as a whole is moving farther away from reading at all. I think the most depressing part of the article for me was the moment we bring teenagers into the discussion. According to the article, which cites a Common Sense Media study, only 17% of 17-year-olds read daily. The quote that followed says they don’t have time because of all the devices by which they are distracted. As angry as I want to be at the teenagers for not reading, I am more angry at the parents who encourage the distractions by providing these devices for their kids. But on the other hand, as angry as I want to be at the parents, I know for a fact that most public schools require their students to be in possession of at least a tablet, sometimes provided by the school district sometimes not. Why are we forcing these devices on the next generation? Reading inspires ideas and ideas inspire change which is always being preached to our kids. The article also talks about teenagers’ inability to spell words correctly. Teachers can distinguish the kids who read from the kids who don’t just by how they spell things. When our children are taking spell check at face value like that, suddenly “granted” becomes “granite,” and “prophet” becomes “profit.” Before we know it, text spelling will become the normal, replacing “you” with “u,” and “for” with “4” an so on. It is absolutely disgraceful that our education system has become so relaxed that our children cannot even speak or write proper English. I wish kids would have the desire to read and learn. What are we doing so wrong where that is not a reality? Enjoy a book and realize the portals through which the written word can take you, the new worlds you can discover, the fantastic people you can meet. The article talks about how humans who read can empathize communicate better than people who don’t. That is a goal toward which we should strive.
The absence of avid readers is also affecting local economies. I received a call from a friend yesterday who said our local downtown bookstore was not doing so well. We used to spend so many summer afternoons there before I moved away and I could not walk out of that store without buying something. I donated and sold books over the years there and the people who worked there were as friendly as they could be. Barnes and Noble is the only chain and physical bookstore left (with the exception of a few Dalton stores left) and even they are struggling trying to keep up with the amenities offered by Amazon.
Here’s a pay it forward challenge to all my readers. Go witness reading to others. Strike up a conversation about reading with anyone who will listen. Go buy a book from your local bookstore. Donate a book to your local school or library. Give your time volunteering locally to encourage kids to read. Only we can fix this problem before it becomes the death of books.