Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nota Bene

American newspapers are doing away with their book reviews. After all, what's the point of book reviews in a nation of non-readers? Scott McLemee says "Hey! Wait a minute!"

I'm glad he's taking a stand for those of us who are still bookworms. But, in my experience, we tend to congregate in big cities, and to be as rare as albinos everywhere else in the states.

I know this question is blasphemous for someone who wants to be an educator to ask, but does it really matter that most Americans don't read? I mean, whenever I read these articles about how Americans are largely unfamiliar with books, there seems to be a tone of inflated despair to them, as if this truly does not bode well for the future. But somehow it's hard to be overly concerned after you visit other countries where most people are still actively reading. Greg, you can let me know about the ''German lands'', but everywhere I went in France, there were people sitting around on benches reading books. And good books! Not 'The Secret' or the latest 'courtroom genetically-engineered spy murder thriller'! Every other television show was people sitting around debating books. And, in general, I found a much higher level of cultural literacy in conversations with people. Therefore I find it hard to believe that literacy or the art of writing will die out in the modern era. Granted, none of my students read for enjoyment- not a one- but I also don't feel so tied to the fate of the nation that this worries me greatly. If I get sick of it, I'll just move. America is just one of the places I frequent. And besides, the nation-state is so 19th century.

This isn't to bash on Americans really; actually I'd like to question the idea that American illiteracy affects anyone but illiterate Americans. Is there any reason to worry about this? If people don't want to read books, can't we just avoid them altogether?


gregvw said...

We live across the hall from what I had estimated as two Austrian party girls in their early 20's. Although I never hear then during regular hours, it sounds like they go out clubbing regularly. A couple of weeks ago, they had their window open and I noticed that their apartment was CRAMM'D with books. Seriously, they must have a tunnel system to get around.

I don't know if this is representative, but I get the impression that reading is still a thing that people do here.

Rufus said...

Yeah, I hear the English are still big readers. And there are a few places in the U.S., like Manhattan, where you still encounter a good number of readers. So, the good news is that reading is still relevant in the modern world. That's a relief.

Anonymous said...

I have teen kids who read for pleasure. They tend to read literary fiction, history and political science. The majority of thier friends also read at least some. I did employ some near-abuse tactics with them when they were young, though. No cable tv. Enforced reading time before bed. That sort of thing. It was evil, but now they can't stop themselves from wanting more.

Rufus said...

I think what really makes the difference is parental involvement. I try to goad my students into reading more, but it works a lot better when parents do it.