Monday, March 7, 2011

I *Don't* Want to Believe

I've been doing this a lot lately.

So an old friend of mine posted this on facebook last week:

1/3 of high school grads never read another book for the rest of their lives.

46 percent of college grads never read another book after college.

80 percent of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70 percent of US adults did not visit a bookstore in the last five years.

57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

I'm a little bit horrified. (and for those of you who pay any attention to my own facebook page, yes, I've been horrified by a lot of things recently.) I want, with every fiber of my cliche . . . I mean being . . . to convince myself that it's not true. And there's a part of me that keeps trying because I have no other source for these statistics - just my knowledge that the person who posted it is not the type of person to make these sorts of stats up just to do it. And knowing enough other people who back them up.

Even if I had not somehow found myself working in the education system I would be horrified by this. Honestly, I can barely fathom the idea. I mean, to put this in more concrete terms, it means that more than half of people my age have not read a book in 5 years or more.


Okay, this may come as a bit of a shock, but I'm kind of a big reader. Yeah, I know, I'll give you a moment to recover. I honestly cannot remember a time when I didn't know how to read. One of mom's favorite stories to tell while I was growing up was how, the Christmas I was in kindergarten my parents got a small Dickens anthology, and I wanted to read A Christmas Carol. So I did. In an hour. The original Dickens version, in all its Dickens-ish glory. And she didn't believe I'd really read it, so she quizzed me on it. And I knew the details that got left out of Mickey's version.

Now, something people may not know if they stick to Mickey's and the Muppets' versions is that A Christmas Carol is a novella. Pretty short. Even today I could probably knock it out in an hour or so of uninterrupted time. But still . . . a five year old reading Dickens. Probably explains why the unabridged Les Miserables ranks so high on my favorite books list. And why so many classics are on the list.

To say my life has revolved around reading . . . well, probably kind of understates the case. I seriously have to have something to read all the time, even if I can only get in a few minutes a day - which is really all I had time for in Florida. I've found myself reading the manuals that come with kitchen appliances before just out of the need to read something. Anything!

So I'm tolerably certain that there is no way for me to understand where these non-reading people are coming from. I've known a few before, and it's definitely influenced my relationships with them. I had a roommate in Florida who hated reading. (I think I died a little inside just thinking about putting those two words in the same sentence!) Absolutely refused to do it. She was a real fan of Harry Potter . . . the movies, naturally. Even the HP books couldn't convince her to pick one up. Again - unfathomable!! Anyway, the seventh book came out while we were both still there, and I'm pretty sure she was the only one in the shuttles break room who wasn't a reader. In the last few weeks before the book came out we would constantly be speculating about what was going to happen, and always pulling out references from past books to support our theories. Except for when my friend was there. More often than not we'd end up explaining things to her because she was confused because we'd mentioned something that got cut out of the movies. (like WHO THE FREAKING MARAUDERS WERE AND WHY THEY'RE KIND OF ESSENTIAL TO THE STORY!!!!!! . . . . . . . . . sorry. I'm still very bitter about the epic screw-up that is the third movie . . . . . . . . . )

Anyway. The book came out. I went with a few friends to a midnight release party. Thankfully I had the day off, and by 10:00 the next morning I'd read it. Twice. But not everyone was as much of a junkie (or as insane) or as fast as I, so there were some very strict no-spoiling rules put in place in the break room until everyone who was reading it finished. It struck me as a little silly, since my non-reading friend had spent the last month constantly bemoaning the fact that we'd just spoiled something for her. We - well, I - kept telling her that it didn't count as spoiling anything, since if she really wanted to know she could just read the books that had been out for years already. Not only did she refuse, she never could give a good reason. Nothing beyond the fact that she just didn't want to.

I'm sorry, what? You're as excited as any of the rest of us to find out what happens to Harry and, unlike the rest of us, you've got three years at Hogwarts you could lose yourself in and you "don't want to?!?!" What?

I hate to admit it, but that had a pretty big effect on our relationship, and not for the better. And as far as I know, she still doesn't know how it all ends. Which I find just sad.

The whole thing is really quite disturbing too. I mean, we're talking well over half the population that never reads. This is not right!!! Forget about these people being the future leaders of the country - these people are probably the leaders right now! (actually . . . that kind of explains what I heard today about some genius politician in the state senate that thinks kids should be taught to read by a computer. Seriously, are we raising kids or robots?) They talk about their kids' minds turning to mush as they do nothing but watch TV and play video games - but that's apparently how they spend their free time too! How hypocritical can you get?!?! I feel like I should double my book reading goal for the year just to make up for the rest of humanity. (it's over there >>>>>>>
up . . . up . . . there!) I was thinking 100 sounded ambitious, then I discovered I read exactly 100 books last year, so I made it 150. How many people do you think I'll be making up for if I pull off 300 books in a year?

I'm so shocked, horrified, and quite frankly offended, that I haven't even been able to get into a really good angry rant mode . . . and as we all know, I can do a good rant when I get going. I'm tempted to start making daily visits to a bookstore to make up for all the morons out there who haven't darkened the door of one for years. Seriously - years?!?! I make at least one trip a month, even if I don't buy something every time.

I fear for the future of humanity. I've said it often, usually semi-jokingly.

I mean it a lot more now.

P. ost S. cript
I feel like I should feel guilty for posting a video after getting all up on my soapbox and all, but it's not like I have anything against TV or video games in addition to reading. Also: I haven't stopped laughing at the bit at the three-and-a-half minute mark . . . and I first watched it a few days ago. The rest is mildly entertaining, but those ten seconds are quite funny.


  1. I bought 3 books today. At a bookstore. That is all.

  2. I hate bookstores. Never go to them. Evah.

  3. If it makes you feel any better, I read. As constantly as I can. Though I have to ban myself from reading novels during the semester, or I'd never get any homework done.

  4. Yeah, I remember trying that. Didn't work. Good thing half my class books were novels . . . :-)

  5. I might just have to share this information with my students. I'm shocked, but not surprised. I require outside reading as a part of their grade, but I wonder how many parents just sign off so their child can have a better grade. It's really not helping them...

  6. me= love book stores, love reading!