If You “Don’t Read,” I’m Judging You

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 23% of Americans did not read a single book in the last year.
And I am judging every one of them.
(Okay, actually, not all of them. America has a surprisingly low literacy rate for a developed nation, and it’s absolutely tragic how people in an industrialized country like ours could have been deprived of this vital skill, which basically dooms them to minimum wage jobs. NPR had a brilliant report on it. I tried to volunteer for an adult-reading program, but apparently this kind of work wasn’t compatible with my 9-5 job.Those people? I do not judge those people. I am sorry we failed them as a community.)
If you are a competent, reasonably educated person–as most folks in America are–then I 100% judge you and think you are less competent if you aren’t opening a book, turning on a Kindle, or otherwise taking time to read something other than your work emails.
The Atlantic article shows that the 23% non-book-reading rate has actually held from the last time the poll was completed, so in 2012 AND in 2014, about a quarter of the population hadn’t read a single book in a year.
The reddit conversation about this report raised good questions: What counts as a book? Are we just talking adult fiction? Would the training manual for work qualify? How about “Hop on Pop” that I read to my kid?
I don’t know the answers to that, but my answers would be: maybe yes, if you actually read it and didn’t skim; and probably no, but chapter books should totally count.
Another set of comments suggested that it didn’t matter because people were reading more than ever, just not books–reading news online, reading personal correspondence, reading magazines. They contend that therefore, it doesn’t matter that people aren’t reading books. I disagree. We’ll get to that in a minute.
The study also reports that only a quarter of people said they had read more than 11 books in a year–not a high sum, and that means that most people (about 50%) have read between 1 and 10 books in a year, far less than one a month.
Last year, I used Goodreads to track my reading, and surprised myself to find that I read more than 30 books last year. I didn’t even find it to be that hard; after all, I’m a fairly busy person. I guess the only thing I do differently from others is that I don’t watch TV…but even then, I watch a show or movie on Netflix several times a week, so I still have an affinity for the boob tube.
(The Atlantic story dug in a little deeper to suggest that because more people are graduating college, more people will likely be readers later on. Maybe. I certainly hope so.)
But–all those non-readers: I’m judging you. I am judging you for your shallow appreciation for fine literature, for an experience that literally takes you out of yourself and teaches you to empathize for others; to allow you to be anyone you could imagine (or can’t imagine!); to teach you new words and concepts that are beyond your ken. Reading unlocks worlds, both within you and outside of you, and I think you are a pathetic person if you can’t be bothered to even read ONE BOOK in a year.
I don’t even care what it is–Young Adult books have seen a surge recently, and it ain’t just kids reading those. Some YA books are my favorites! It’s a great way to escape adult pressures.
Why don’t magazines and online reading count? Basically, they are too short and don’t provide that escapism or empathy portion that you get from complex storylines in a novel or nonfiction work. There isn’t sufficient complexity. I mean, the average newspaper (and magazine) is written at the 8th grade level. That’s not a very high bar. You can do better! Stretch your mind! It will make you more interesting. I am full of random tidbits and knowledge picked up in a book somewhere along the lines!
And the time thing isn’t really an excuse; you’re just not trying. I read before bed. I also bring a book to lunch with me, in case my coworkers are busy. Reading while eating is far better than just eating alone because you got ditched for a meeting!
One of my favorite college professors recently declared on Facebook that she read 177 books a in the last year! That’s incredible! I mean, I felt accomplished with 30! I told her that Stephen King claims to read 70 books a year, so clearly she needs to start writing.
Reading is good for the soul and the mind. Go pick up a book, you lazy louts.
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4 Comments

Filed under Reading, Science

4 responses to “If You “Don’t Read,” I’m Judging You

  1. I’m with you. When someone tells me they don’t really read I’m like, well, what are we going to talk about then? My biggest struggle as a teacher (and one in which I failed miserably) was convincing my kids to read for fun. They just didn’t get it. I think that’s the problem. Most adults today don’t get that reading can actually be fun. And for that we can probably thank the education system of the past few decades, forcing kids to analyse the themes of complicated literary works without first teaching them to enjoy a good story, but that probably warrants its own blog post (or blog).

    • Good point, plus I’d add the idea that some books “aren’t good enough.” So what if you’re in high school and still reading the Boxcar Kids? If you like it and are reading, so what? Be happy! You probably should learn how to analyze a book, but not every reading experience has to be like that.

  2. I rarely read as a kid, simply because I found books to be too “slow” compared to things like movies or videogames. That’s the problem nowadays, I think: too many people want their entertainment quick and flashy, making them see books as a waste of time.

    I sometimes wonder why short stories aren’t more popular, though. I’d have thought they’d be ideal in this day and age.

  3. Reblogged this on The parasite guy and commented:
    This, basically.

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