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29 June 2014 @ 07:28 am
Time, time, time  
I am always a little suspect when it comes to making generalizations about the population as a while, so I approached this information with a soupçon of suspicion that it might not be the most accurate data I have seen. The charts below come from a piece about how kids are not reading as much these days. I have certainly seen this before. There have been others who have pointed to the fact that there is a decline in reading outside of school (and I wonder if that number will drop even more precipitously as kids endure close readings of Amelia Bedelia and Make Way for Ducklings). Here at the ALA conference, we are having those discussions, of course. We are talking about them in the aisles of the exhibit hall; sessions are exploring engagement and motivation. Still, I feel skeptical about these reports. To me, they are similar to the polls I see on TV "news" shows that indicate the percentage of Americans who_________ (you fill in the blank).

However, take a look at the chart that shows how Americans spend their leisure time:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.02.16 AM

Adults (and for the sake of this survey that included those 15 and older for some reason) spend 19 minutes a day reading. I might have added in at least a part of their time on the computer since I do think reading is going on there. Ditto time spent with arts and entertainment outside of TV viewing. Sometimes it is hard to separate the different types of reading. Often, folks forget that reading is not just text based.

Now, co,pare the first chart to this one that focuses solely on the amount of time spent reading:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.01.38 AM

The teen group reads about 42 minutes a week, just 6 minutes a day, outside of school. Is it because they see no value in reading or because the reading they do for school makes them avoid any more contact with text or are they following the model of their parents who do not do much reading weekly? Or, again, is there something missing here in other types of reading?

To their credit, the pollsters include this information as well:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 7.14.20 AM

Those same teens are spending 52 minutes a day online. The pollsters acknowledge that kids could be reading worthwhile (their word not none) stuff online or just simply "wasting time." We don't know with these self-reports how accurate any of this data is. Here is what I can tell you for now.

1. There are kids here at the ALA conference with parents. They are standing in autographing lines, attending sessions, asking questions of speakers, etc. I hosted Stephan Pastis on the Pop Top Stage Saturday. I adore his Timmy Failure books and his comic strip PEARLS BEFORE SWINE. There were kids there, kids who got their books signed, kids who asked questions, kids who were excited about meeting a "real" author.

2. Educators at the conference are talking about taking these books back, talking about the kids who are eagerly awaiting the next in a particular series, talking about kids who consume books like they are candy.

3. Educators across the country (or at least across my Twitter and Facebook feeds) are planning already for next year. They are weeding classroom and school libraries; they are taking PD and college courses. They are participating in #bookaday and other challenges to make sure they read as much as possible so they can share books with their students.

4. There are kids curled up with books out there. Kids for whom a book is a boon companion or a way to beat the heat or a way to search for answers or a part of their routine as much as brushing teeth. Kids are reading. How many minutes? I do not know. What percentage? I am not certain.

I do know this: as long as there is ONE kid out there reading, ONE kid who wants to delve into a book and then talk about it with another reader, ONE kid who loves books and reading, then I am right beside them. I plan to sit and read for a while this morning before heading out into the heat to go listen to some authors and pick up some books. Tonight is the night we celebrate the Newbery and Caldecott winners, too. It will be a long day, to be sure. But at the end of the day, I will have spent so many minutes in the company of those who love books as I do. Bliss!
 
 
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