Monday, November 19, 2007

To Read or Not to Read

Gail Gauthier points out a news report on an National Endowment for the Arts study, To Read or Not To Read. As she says, "ouch." When I went to comment on her post, I realized I was writing so much I should also post here.

I realize I should read the entire 99 page report. So, I've ordered my copy and in the meanwhile am musing over some of the highpoints (lowpoints?) that appear in the press release. I fully realize that even their own press release may not be accurate.

* This report does include nonfiction and "non literary" reading as reading. (To which I say, "yay" for recognizing reading beyond literary, but as is seen later, the report cycles back to focus on literary reading.)

* Daily reading has gone down. (My comment: I'm a big reader and I would answer "no" to the question of whether I read daily (excluding reading for work, of course!) so I wonder why daily reading is the measurement.)

* Reading scores have gone down. (My comment: I wonder what this means about how reading is being taught, as well as what is being tested.)

* "Nearly two-thirds of employers ranked reading comprehension "very important" for high school graduates. Yet 38 percent consider most high school graduates deficient in this basic skill." (My comment: the problem I have always had with "employers say..." is that, I was an A student in high school English and had great English teachers, but I was not taught to read and write for a work environment. If anything, business classes and writing classes in college and law school did that. Ditto for library school, where I learned an entirely different "right" way to read and write professional material. Should English teachers be teaching not how to analyze literature, but how to read and write for work?)

* How do they define "non reader"? I'm very curious to read the report to get this definition. And what are the causes? If a teen is over-scheduled or has a heavy "required" reading component for school, does that turn them into a temporary non reader? Since the report ends with talking about "literary readers," is that the only desired result? Am I, then, a non reader if I'm not reading literary works?

Is the desired result to have people realize that reading is fun and pleasurable? Or, is the desired result to have people reading the types of books listed at The Big Read?

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