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To get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions.
Book publishing has many conundrums to solve in the coming decade, and not a week goes by without a long, thoughtful article in some major magazine about the impending collapse of the industry and its myriad causes: ebooks, Youtube, greed, television, gaming, big advances, returns, amazon, pirates, the Decline and Fall of Civilization.
The articles all revolve around this central and troubling question: "How can publishing maintain its financial viability when fewer people are reading books? Especially when everyone wants everything for free?"
This is going to be a tough question for publishers to answer, but it misses a more fundamental question, which is: "What do readers want, and how can we best provide it?"
I don't mean: "What books do they want to read," but rather, "What can we do to help people read more books?"
Author Rosemary Wells made a lot of people feel good about themselves at the Staten Island Historical Society Literacy Leadership luncheon at the Excelsior Grand, New Dorp.
The creator of beloved characters such as sibling bunnies Max and Ruby stressed the importance of reading to children every day and praised the people who help make that possible.
"Without teachers and librarians, our world as writers would be very small. Because of you, the world of ideas is open to all children," she said. The author of some 60 books lauded the society's honoree, Robert (Bobaloo) Basey, for his work as a storyteller.
"When you go around to schools and libraries, you are a living book and that is a wonderful life to live," she said.
Telling a story about building bridges, and performing his own exit music on a flute, Basey, a teaching artist and Stapleton native, expressed his gratitude for "getting a boost to hang in there. It's a challenge with arts funding being cut."
A major Max and Ruby fan, Robyn Busan, 7, was there to meet Ms. Wells. She is also a child who is being given, in Ms. Wells' words, the "gift of thought and language" by being read to.
"I like that he [Max] doesn't really talk much," said the first-grader at PS 65.
"And he doesn't listen," said her father, Robert, who was obviously benefiting from the daily reading sessions he and his wife share with their daughter.
Opinion piece in the Washington Post
Book mentioned in opinion piece: Steady Gains and Stalled Progress: Inequality and the Black-White Test Score Gap
A study provides new insights about what's going on in your head when you crack open a good book. Jeff Zacks, associate professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, talks about the study.
Listen to full piece on NPR
Today's Word-of-the-Day from Wordsmith.com is ex libris (from the library), but there's also a mention of spam and where it's heading (it would be nice if it was heading in the opposite direction of our inboxes...surely you've heard from Mariam Abachha in the last few years).
Here's the link to subscribe to A.Word.A.Day.
The real reason Americans don't read
The truth is that the decline of reading for pleasure has little to do with the things that teachers, librarians and parents seem to think are causing it. The majority of American adults are literate, and high school English curriculums are meant to teach them to analyze literature, not enjoy it. (It's a wonder even as many as half of Americans still enjoy reading after being subjected to "The Scarlet Letter.") The reasons are more complex than that, and it's not at all clear that better education or higher literacy would change Americans' reading habits.
Unlike, say, watching a movie, reading a book is necessarily a private experience.
For the first time since 1982, "the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen [to 50.2%]," according to a National Endowment for the Arts study being released today, reported by the New York Times.
The increase was most notable among 18-24 year olds and involved novels and short stories more than poetry or drama. Literary reading also increased among Hispanic Americans.
For the first time, the study included Internet reading, which some thought might have helped boost rates, although the AAP's Pat Schroeder suggested that some people don't count reading online or on e-readers as "book" reading.
Other possible explanations for the jump: one community, one read programs; the popularity of the Harry Potter and Twilight series; and "individual efforts of teachers, librarians, parents and civic leaders" to promote literature and reading. Booksellers, too, we'd think.
The study is called "Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy" and is based on data from the Census Bureau compiled last year.
It may be low-tech (and decidedly green) but it works, according to this BBC story about donkey powered mobile library sevices.
"If you leave them practising their letters and walk out through the garden gate, you will find another group of children, clustered under a shady tree, absorbed in their books.
Parked alongside them is a brightly painted wooden cart, with sides which fold down to display the shelves of books.
The two donkeys which pull it are resting in another patch of shade.
This is Ethiopia's first Donkey Mobile Library - the brainchild of an expatriate Ethiopian now living in the United States."
Along with the families of Atif Irfan, a tax attorney, and his brother Kashif Irfan, an anesthesiologist, employees at AirTran Airways at Reagan Airport outside Washington DC also removed a family friend, Abdul Aziz. Aziz is a Library of Congress attorney (according to LinkedIn, he is a "Legal Information Analyst at Library of Congress") who was coincidentally taking the same flight and had been seen talking with the family. Story from CNN.
Further analysis on this incident from Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report, whose article is entitled "Does Muslim Family Booted From Plane Strengthen Case for Religious Literacy?"
Americans are doing less well than global competitors on a key index of literacy, according to a literacy survey by Central Connecticut State University.
From All Headline News: This study attempts to capture one critical index of our nation's well-being -- the literacy of its major cities--by focusing on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources. The information is compared against population rates in each city to develop a per capita profile of the city's "long-term literacy"-a set of factors measuring the ways people use their literacy-and thus presents a large-scale portrait of our nation's cultural vitality," Dr. Jack Miller, CCSU President says.