How many books did you read in 2007 that were not work or school related?
Reading Well by moriza
73% of Americans said they had read "a book of some kind", according to a survey cited in this fascinating article (I was reading way past my bedtime last night):
Twilight of the Books: What will life be like if people stop reading? by Caleb Craine, The New Yorker, December 24, 2007.
It's all in how you ask the question. Another survey asked Americans if they had "read a work of creative literature in the previous twelve months". The numbers were down at 46.7% in 2002.
Granted, these stats refer to words in print, and don't include pages read online.
The History and Biology of Reading
Craine references a book by Maryanne Wolf: “Proust and the Squid” (Harper; $25.95), an account of the history and biology of reading. Add this to your reading list for 2008.
As people read less (and Craine's statistics indicate that they are), he wonders if we're transitioning from a literate culture back to an oral tradition. Reading brains work differently from listening ones.
The Benefits of Reading
As we learn to read fluently, our minds our freed up. Imaginations wander and you make your own connections with the content.
With the gain in time and the freed-up brainpower, Wolf suggests, a fluent reader is able to integrate more of her own thoughts and feelings into her experience. “The secret at the heart of reading,” Wolf writes, is “the time it frees for the brain to have thoughts deeper than those that came before.” (Craine)
As you're reading this post, you're thinking about other things. How you read. What you've recently read that sparked some new insight. What you should have for lunch.
In a recent book claiming that television and video games were “making our minds sharper,” the journalist Steven Johnson argued that since we value reading for “exercising the mind,” we should value electronic media for offering a superior “cognitive workout.” But, if Wolf’s evidence is right, Johnson’s metaphor of exercise is misguided. When reading goes well, Wolf suggests, it feels effortless, like drifting down a river rather than rowing up it. It makes you smarter because it leaves more of your brain alone. (Craine)
Steven Johnson (Everything Bad is Good For You) (a book of which I read about half of in 2007) argues that games can make us smarter. What do you think?
Audio Narration and PowerPoint
And then there was this, yet another argument in favor of NOT narrating the text of a PowerPoint (or eLearning course):
....there is research suggesting that secondary orality and literacy don’t mix. In a study published this year, experimenters varied the way that people took in a PowerPoint presentation about the country of Mali. Those who were allowed to read silently were more likely to agree with the statement “The presentation was interesting,” and those who read along with an audiovisual commentary were more likely to agree with the statement “I did not learn anything from this presentation.” The silent readers remembered more, too, a finding in line with a series of British studies in which people who read transcripts of television newscasts, political programs, advertisements, and science shows recalled more information than those who had watched the shows themselves.
A Call to Action
Don't just sit there. Go read something. (Oh wait, you just did!) And then go read something to your kids.