The state of reading today
I’m continually surprised and dismayed by the number of people who do not read anything other than their personal text messages and a few shallow news snippets on their electronic devices. I’m afraid the percentage of non-readers is increasing. Many of our young people do not read and have no idea what they’re missing. I was recently watching a YouTube talk given by Stephen King and John Grisham who both said sales numbers have been declining, and Grisham said it’s frustrating to be a writer in a nation wherein so many aren’t reading.
I think it’s curious, though, that many people who refuse to crack a novel or even a short story will go to a fictional movie in a heartbeat and take great enjoyment in it. Ironically, many of these movies were born as novels, nonfiction books, or short stories.
As writers, what can we do to help reverse the readership decline?
In my county we have a Literacy Council. Working on donations, they offer free confidential tutoring services to students and adults, and train new volunteer tutors through workshops. They’ve been improving lives one person at a time since 1986. If you have such an organization in your area, consider making an annual contribution.
We can offer to speak to local school classes about the benefits and joys of reading and writing, and we can encourage our kids and grandkids to read. Years ago, I taught creative writing at a community college and it was fun. I keep in touch with some of the students, and one went on to become a paid writer and tabloid publisher.
We can support our local libraries. We can read to groups of kids there—as my mother did in our tiny stone village library decades ago—revealing to them the wonders of their own imaginations.
And we can carry on writing engaging fiction and nonfiction that those readers we do have, bless them, will continue to crave and share.