Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The written word is dead. Long live the written word.

Today I learned a sad fact. Americans aren't reading outside of work or school. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, fewer than half of American adults read for pleasure. The number has been decreasing in the last 20 years.

In 1982, 56.9 percent of adults read for pleasure. In 2002, just 46.7 percent did. The decline was most pronounced among young adults: In that age group the figure dropped from 62.1 percent to 47.7 percent. What are people doing instead? Cultural, sports, and volunteer activities--and watching more television.

Education is the factor that most determines how much people read for pleasure, the most- recent data showed. Among adults with a graduate education, 74 percent read for pleasure. Among adults with a grade school education, 14 percent do.

As a lifelong bookworm who learned to read at three years old, I feel strongly about people reading for pleasure. In a learning context, even reading for fun expands our horizons, enabling us to experience things we never would in "real life." We can learn about history, language, culture, and so forth. Being introduced to someone else's ideas can often have a profound effect on our own outlook.

Not to mention that reading's just fun and a great escape. Do your part to promote reading for pleasure. Read with your child, grandchild, friend's child, neighbor's child. The article from the National Academies that gave me the above statistics offers some links and resources to promote reading among young children.

In other news, apparently letter writing is back. The dying art is being revived in corporations, according to the editor of CNETnews.com, among people fed up with email spam and viruses. Michael Kanellos says companies are returning to letter writing to make deals, sweet-talk potential clients, and distribute press releases. Even Bill Clinton wrote out his 900-page memoir with a pen, Kanellos reports.

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