Monday, April 9, 2012

Good News/Bad News about Reading

According to research released last week, thirty-six percent of Americans read for pleasure every day or almost every day.

The news gets better. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project studied e-reading in the U.S. Among its findings:

*A fifth of American adults have read an e-book in the past year.

*The average reader of e-books has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer.

*30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now.

*80% of Americans age 16 and older say they read at least occasionally for pleasure.

Does all this good news have you wondering when the other bookend will drop?

In a section of the report called "The General Reading Habits of Americans,"
Pew reveals that 19 percent of respondents aged sixteen and over said they hadn't read a single book in any format over the previous twelve months. As the report puts it, "If this figure is accurate, that means more than 50 million Americans don't read books at all."


"While it’s encouraging that some people are reading more, the nation cannot afford to continue losing readers," said American Library Association president Molly Raphael.

Writers can't afford to lose potential readers, either.

How do we account for the non-readers? Certainly, long work hours, short attention spans, family demands, dyslexia, and vision problems get some of the blame. In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 14.5 percent of Americans are illiterate. (The most recent results date from 2003.)

How's that for good news/bad news? Thirty-six percent of American's read for pleasure every day or almost every day, yet another 14.5 percent can't read at the level considered necessary for everyday activities and employment.

If you have the time and temperament to serve as a literacy volunteer, contact ProLiteracy to find a program near you.

Do you know a reluctant reader? Please watch this video featuring best-selling authors James Patterson and Rick Riordan. Note that non-fiction is a gateway to reading for many kids, particularly for boys.

Patterson founded, a website of book recommendations to tempt reluctant readers.

How have you encouraged the reluctant readers in your life. What tips/strategies worked for you?


Coleen Patrick said...

My son used to read a lot of fiction when he was younger. He's 16 now and would rather watch Youtube videos along with all the other distracting things. But when he does read he likes non-fiction now. He likes trivia books and also re-reads a book called Chew on this which is all about the fast food industry. I think NF is a great way to get reluctant readers reading because there's plenty of options to tap into their interests. Great topic Pat!

Lark Howard said...

My husband use to watch TV constantly and started reading when he turned off our television (that's right, we don't have TV anymore). He started out with the fast reads like James Patterson and moved on to more more diverse authors. Since he started reading on his iPad, he always has a book going. The ease of downloading the next Vince Flynn or Lee Childs anytime/anywhere means he doesn't have to deal with the frustration of finding a bookstore that has the book in stock. I think this convenience accounts for why people who read e-books read more.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Coleen, we love fiction, but a lot of people can't warm up to make-believe. I understand the "just the facts, ma'am," readers, and, as you pointed out, non-fiction offers so many options. I'm off to Google Chew because I, too, like non-fiction about the food industry.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
Yes, the convenience factor boosts e-reading, and, among young people, there's a coolness factor that comes into play.

I admire you and your husband for ditching the tv. Me, I'm counting the days until Top Chef returns.

Alicia Street said...

Valuable post, Pat. I definitely think the surge of media everywhere has influenced reading. But I've heard e-readers are causing a slight rise.

I'm one of those few people who'd rather see characters as I imagine them from words in a book than have a director choose them for me. Not that I don't like tv and movies, but reading is so much more intimate.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Alice,
I know what you mean about reading being more intimate. Happily, the ability to see characters as we imagine them is unchanged from print to e-reader. The reader is still the one doing the active work of expanding upon the world created by the author.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

My husband does not like to read. But once in a while, he will, if I go get something for him that he likes - mostly Clive Cussler. I also got him to read Bob Mayer! Part of why he doesn't like to start a book is, he won't stop until he's done - and he reads slowwwwwwly (dyslexia). So it doesn't happen often.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Think of all the speed readers who stop a book a third of the way in. Your husband's doggedness is admirable--and the authors he reads should be honored. Good for you, btw, for introducing your husband to Bob Mayer's books.

Karen McFarland said...

Okay Pat, I'm kinda off the grid this week but I wanted to stop by. Interestingly enough, we turned off the cable about eighteen months ago and that forced my husband to read. He read magazines, just not books. Not anymore. :)

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

Interesting statistics! I guess if we got rid of computers, I-pads, television, etc. more folks would read. But alas, that'll never happen.

I used to be a literacy volunteer at my local library. It was a sad job actually. So many adults lack basic skills.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt