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2008 New Year's Resolution

abstract: My 2008 New Year's Resolution is to take the National Endowment for the Arts "To Read or Not to Read" report seriously and take action. The NEA produces the most comprehensive and reliable survey on reading there is. It draws from consistent, widespread sources that produce measurable conclusions: Only one in four Americans read a book last year. "Despite improved reading abilities in elementary school . . . all progress appears to halt in teenage years at age thirteen. There is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans, and they read less well. Even college graduates' regular habit of reading has declined. These declines have demonstrable social, economic, cultural, and civic implications." What can we do? Read this and find out.


December 31, 2007
— "Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement. Significantly worse reading skills are found among prisoners than in the general adult population. And deficient readers are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting."

What Can We Do?

  • Lead by example: read, read, read. Start a book group. Encourage friends.

  • Support your local library. Ask the librarian to start a village book group.
  • Demand reading in the high schools. Obligatory reading periods at the beginning of each day of school. Offer awards to the class, teacher, and students who demonstrate the most books read.
  • Use new technology to advantage. Electronic readers, free downloadable books, widespread wireless Internet. The easier it is to access books in public places where we take breaks, have coffee, have to wait, congregate, or commute: the more we as a society will read.
  • Make reading public. Our leaders should talk about the books they're reading, the books that moved them, the books that converted them to lifelong readers. Author tours should be sponsored by public and private funds, not by the struggling authors piling their life savings (in the currency of their supply of newly printed books) into the station wagon and taking a year out of their life to criss-cross the country.
  • Every newspaper, magazine publication, and social networking blog needs a book review column. They're dropping like flies, and when the columns aren't dropped, they're contracted and consolidated.
  • Books to Film. Publishers need to collaborate with film distribution companies to make the original book that a movie was adapted from available at the theaters and rental businesses. Watch and read: it doesn't matter in which order.
  • Register a book group on today.



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