Who is NOT reading?
Schedule for: April 04, 2017, 11:01
A recent piece in the news from Pew Research asserts, "About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form. So who, exactly, are these non-book readers?" You can read the full report here: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/23/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/. Education and income appear to be some of the mitigating factors. I would suggest there might be a few not accounted for in the graph included in the article.
1. Access to books. Income might be tied here to some degree. I wonder if there were better access if this figure might become smaller? What if the public library were close by? What if it were easy to obtain a card? What if the local school libraries had materials for parents and community members? What if? We already know that access plays an incredible role in the reading of our students. Donalyn Miller and I have been working on a new book whose first chapter (at this point in our writing) is about ACCESS, and we have a lot to say about that topic.
2. Motivation to read. We already know that many students graduate from K-12 with a deep aversion to reading. If those folks dislike reading due to their school experiences, how can we hope that there is a sudden turn around once they are adults? The sad ruth is that there are students who have grown weary of all the assigned reading that they eschew the very idea of reading "for fun." Often, when people ask why I do for a living, I am met with wrinkled noses and furrowed brows and some comment about how terrible their school reading experiences were. If you just want to read on the next flight you take, let your neighbor know you teach English. Unless they are a kindred spirit, you should have plenty of time to fall into your book.
3. A broader definition of reading. In the comments at the end of the piece from Pew, one reader comments about the fact that this poll was about reading a book. What about periodicals, social media, and other ways to read? Must all the reading that counts be about books? I begin each day with coffee and social media. I read through Twitter and Facebook feeds. I pass links along to my BH. Is that not reading? Shouldn't it count? The bottom line is that we need to honor reading of any kind. I wonder if asked about reading a book some respondents assumed that meant a novel? Maybe our questions need some reworking.
I do appreciate all the work the Pew Center does to monitor use of reading and technology and a myriad of other topics. I do turn to their reports often as I begin research into a topic. However, like any piece of research, we need to ask questions such as the above. We need to question. We need to look at how items are phrased. Sometimes data can obfuscate instead of enlighten. Behind the data are real people.