Thursday, January 24, 2008

To Read or Not to Read

I love to read. I’ve always loved to read. And if you are reading this blog, odds are you love to read, too. Doesn’t everyone love a good book, you’re asking? According to a number of pretty scary studies, apparently not.

So, just what do the studies show? Let’s take a look. But, be warned, it’s not a pretty sight.

The National Endowment for the Arts recently released a 99-page report titled To Read or Not to Read and the results are sobering.

Did you know that according to this study:

-- In 2002 barely half of Americans ages 18 to 24 read a book voluntarily.

-- From 1992 to 2003 the number of adults with bachelor’s degrees and “proficient in reading prose” dropped from 40% to 31%.

-- Since the 1990’s the number of 17 year-olds who “never or hardly ever” read for pleasure has doubled.

-- 72% of high school graduates are deemed deficient in writing in English.

-- Money spent on books dropped 14% from 1985 to 2005 and has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s.

I warned you it wasn’t going to be pretty. Okay, it’s downright depressing. On so many levels. As a parent, student, author, and American, this data is scary.

There is some good news:

-- Reading comp scores for 9 year olds have risen since the 1990s.

-- The teen fiction market is expanding and growing, in part likely due to the success of Harry Potter.

We can only hope these young readers continue to find fun and entertainment in reading as they grow older.

And more good news…of a somewhat unrelated nature:

-- I finally figured out who the villain is in my latest Calamity Jayne book.

-- The temperature is supposed to get into the thirties by the weekend after hitting -25 wind chill this week.

-- I mailed my galley off today.

And—insert big whoo hoo here--I’m still decaffeinated! No caffeine. No soda pop. How on earth will I get this book done?

So, any good news (or bad news if you prefer) you’d like to share this week?

Gossip would work, too.

~Bullet Hole Bacus~


Wendy said...

That's just crazy. I love to read and bfore I started college, I read 5-7 books A WEEK, but I've had to slow down.

Good news? Erm..let me get back to you on that! ;)

Kathy Bacus said...

Yeah, those findings kind of blew me away, too, Wendy. But working with Middle Schoolers I could tell most of them did absolutely ZILCH independent reading--and only pretended to read their books during reading time. Of course, it might also have something to do with the fact that many more kids are not fluent readers or don't have a clue what they've just read when they do read. So not encouraging...

And yes, chime in any time with good news, bad news, anything.

~Bullet Hole~

Wendy said...

It really isn't encouraging. I think what teachers should do is assign the student to read whatever books they want and they can put some time aside to talk about it once they're done. When I was in Middle School, we had this system that everytime you read a book, you could take this really easy computer quiz and you actually got points for it.

It was fun! (at least for me) You can just imagine how many points I had, lol. I've always love reading since I was little, same as my dad.

Good news! (kinda) I had an exam this morning that went rather well and even though I'm still waiting on the score, I think I did good. :)

Tori Lennox said...

I just can't imagine not enjoying reading. But people are always constantly amazed at how many books I have (over 1200).

Teri Thackston said...

Very sad stats, but the 9-year olds are encouraging...aren't they...please? I hope it's not an abberation.

Christie Craig said...


I just hate reading those stats. I think all we can do is write such wonderful books that it forces people to continue reading.

And shifting focus on those more personal notes. Congrats on figuring your bad guy, (it's kind of scary that we can that so well) stay warm, celebrate large now that those galleys are out the door, and darn it, I think you deserve a large dose of caffeine. But okay...I'm happy for you.

Crime Scene Christie

Kathy Bacus said...

Yeah, when I moved several years ago my family couldn't believe how many bins of books I had, Tori. I swear I'm going to get to each and every one of them, too!

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Me, too, Teri. I do realize that as students get older, the demands of middle and especially high school make it difficult for them to find time to read. Still, I can't imagine not reading--and not getting joy from it.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

You'd be very discouraged if you could see what passes for a reading program at the middle school level--at least in my neck of the woods, Wendy. Little or no accountability. Low expectations. Very sad--and alarming.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Thanks, Christie! This makes my sixth galley out the door. I always breath a sigh of relief when I know another one is a wrap.

As far as my next book goes, come to think of it, it is kind of scary that I celebrate the fact that I've discovered my 'murderer'!

~Bullet Hole~

Estella said...

I learned to read when I was 5 and have never looked back. I read on rhe average of a book a day. I cannot imagine life without books!

Wendy said...

Well, where are the parents in this whole thing?

I think if the school have low funds and can't have a good library or something, the parents should step in and buy their kids books. Heck, they don't even have to buy them! They can get them from any public library.

Kathy Bacus said...

I'd love to read more frequently, Estella. The downside of writing is it leaves much less time for reading. I really miss it, too.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

Our schools have very adequate media centers. Unfortunately, Wendy, many parents either don't have the time or take the time to make sure their students are actually spending sufficient time reading. While high school college prep courses include a lot of reading, not a lot of students take these courses. In Middle School students are expected to take home reading logs to keep track of reading time, but that's a joke as parents sign off on them without making sure their kid has actually read the indicated time. Or worse yet, the kids signs off on it for the parent.

~Bullet Hole~

Dru said...

what is the world without a book in your hand. It is a way to escape the difficulties one may be experiencing at the moment.

Perhaps they should go back to that phrase "Reading is Fundamental" and start marketing it again.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

It is depressing. My kids are still young but I hope I can instill a love of books in them that will last a lifetime. Their father and I are certainly modeling the behavior for them - we're always reading something!

Kathy Bacus said...

It's a mystery to me, too, dru. Something obviously needs to be done but, as with most issues dealing with children, change needs to begin at home and with parents and parenting.

~Bullet Hole~

Kathy Bacus said...

I think that being a good role model and showing that reading is important--and expected--is key, jenyfer. I also believe some of this reading disconnect can be traced to poor reading skills. It's hard to enjoy a story when you're struggling to read every other word.

~Bullet Hole~