Thursday, December 13, 2007

"To Read or Not To Read" Report

I've been reading over the Executive Summary of the National Endowment for the Arts' latest report, "To Read or Not to Read." Hold onto your hat: Young people are reading less. Actually grade schoolers are doing okay, but middle schoolers, high schoolers and college-age kids are really sucking wind in the reading department.

I should say this thing is not a pick-me-up. It leads off with these three factoids:

• Americans are spending less time reading
• Reading comprehension skills are eroding
• The declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications

Here are two interesting factoids I've gleaned while flipping through the Executive Summary:

Fact 1: The reported number of books in a house has a direct correlation to how well kids did in science, civics and history. If a home had more than 100 books, the scores were 161, 167 and 305 respectively. With 0-10 books in the home, the scores were 122, 123, and 265.

Lesson: A home that values books produces children who do better in school.

Fact 2: Kids in 12th grade who read for fun almost every day have an average writing score of 162, kids who never or hardly ever read scored 136.

Lesson: Read a lot and you will be a better writer.

Most interesting is a passage in the preface—written by Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the NEA— that mentions the impact reading can have on people's lives:

"Whether or not people read, and indeed how much and how often they read, affects their lives in crucial ways. All of the data suggest how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals—whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual's academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person's social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every positive personal and social behavior surveyed. It is reassuring, though hardly amazing, that readers attend more concerts and theater than non-readers, but it is surprising that they exercise more and play more sports—no matter what their education level. The cold statistics confirm something that most readers know but have mostly been reluctant to declare as fact—books change lives for the better."

You can download the Executive Summary here.

You can order a free hardcopy by snail mail or download the full report here.

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