From today's New York Times:
Author Andrew Solomon opines on a study released Thursday by the National Endowment for the Arts claiming that fewer than half of Americans over age 18 now read novels, short stories, plays or poetry, AND that the downward trend holds true in virtually ALL demographic areas. This is a tragedy.
The survey, called "Reading at Risk," (a truly frightening title) is based on data from "The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts," conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002. It confirms that the consumer pool for books of all kinds has diminished; and that the pace at which the nation is losing readers, especially young readers, is quickening.
Author Solomon writes:
"The role of literature is to illuminate, to strengthen, to explain why some aspect of life is moving or beautiful or terrible or sad or important or insignificant for people who might otherwise not understand so much or so well. Reading is experience, but it also enriches other experience.
"What is the point of having a population that can read, but doesn't? We need to teach people not only how, but also why to read. The struggle is not to make people read more, but to make them WANT to read more."
Reading has educated me, enlightened me and empowered me as both an individual and as a writer. And so you'll have to excuse me now because I'm going back to reading "Gaglow" by Esther Freud.