Poll shows 1 in 4 Americans read no books last year. But books aren't everything . . .

Dennis Baron debaron at uiuc.edu
Wed Aug 22 05:16:01 UTC 2007


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Poll shows 1 in 4 Americans read no books last year.  But books  
aren't everything . . .

27% of Americans read no books last year, according to an AP-Ipsos  
poll just out.  The media immediately reported that the nation’s  
literacy is in free fall.

Every time there’s a literacy crisis, and they come about once a  
decade, the usual suspects get the blame.  Movies, comic books, TV,  
rock 'n' roll, and now the Internet have all been faulted for this  
perceived decline in reading, along with permissive parenting,  
overcrowded schools, and illegal immigration. . . .

Finding a solution to the latest reading crisis won’t be easy.  When  
the economy tanks, the Fed increases the money supply to stimulate  
spending . . . But there’s no invisible hand steering the nation’s  
literacy.  Even the heroic efforts of J. K. Rowling, the literary  
Alan Greenspan who flooded the market this summer with more than 12  
million copies of Harry Potter 7.0, hasn’t reversed the decline in  
literacy rates.  Yes, people read the Potter series, but a July  
report by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that most of them  
don't go on to read other books.

And yet, Americans do read.  Maybe we don't all read books as much as  
the NEA would like, but we all go through life surrounded by the  
printed word, and few of us have the will power to resist reading it.

We drive our cars through gauntlets of signs telling us where we are,  
how to get where we’re going, and what to buy when we get there.  And  
when we get out of the car . . .



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Dennis Baron                                                home:  
217-351-6471
Professor of English and linguistics        mobile: 217-840-0776
University of Illinois                                           fax:  
217-333-4321
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana IL 61801

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