Friday, July 14, 2023

A Real Problem Sinks into DIE

7/13/23 The Hill:
"Amid a cascade of devastating reports showing classroom test scores plummeting nationwide, U.S. students have also hit a record low in their leisure time: Casual reading has collapsed. 

"Only 14 percent of students say they read for fun every day, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report released recently, down 3 percentage points from 2020 and 13 since 2012. The report indicates 31 percent of students never or hardly ever read for fun."

All fine as far as it goes but:

"Miah Daughtery, the vice president of academic advocacy focused on literacy at NWEA, a nonprofit research organization, points to tracking by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center that shows a lack of diversity in published authors.

“If we take a look at it from a publishing perspective, the books that are even being published reflect a really small percentage of what’s available to students that reflect the balance of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, then you layer on top of that disorder that national conversation and rhetoric and I would even say insistence on book challenges and bans,” Daughtery said. “So all of those things together are not creating strong conditions that would consistently encourage independent reading.”

So white kids will not read Up From Slavery?  Can we get past this irrational focus on race?


  1. I am curious just how "Catcher in the Rye is by any definition or stretch of the imagination "reflect[s] the balance of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation."

  2. Not reading? Or not reading books? I would suspect the latter, as there is lot to "read" in non-book formats, such as tweets. The Web offers lots of short-form content which encourages short-attention spans, and diverts the audience from longer works.

    I'm no teenager (by about half a century), but this has affected me - I'm far less likely to take on a book than I used to be. Kids who have grown up with it may have never developed the intellectual muscles needed to engage with a book.

  3. "Only 14 percent of students say they read for fun every day" - how much of the fault lies with school reading assignments? I graduated high school in 1978. Three of the joyless reading assignments I remember were The Great Gatsby (which featured useless and uninteresting rich people), The Catcher in the Rye (a tale of arrested development told in first person by the crass, emotionally weak, and unsympathetic arrestee), and A Separate Peace (a big ugly melodrama is coming down the pike, and the reader can see it early on as plainly as Commodore Decker can see the approach of the titular Doomsday Machine in that old Star Trek episode, but there's no way to avoid it because there's a test next week). I learned to like reading in adulthood when I discovered early Heinlein, and Frank Herbert's Dune gave a strong assist. I reread all three of the cursed novels in adulthood, and my opinion of all three remained unchanged.

    On another note, is there anything published after 1950 that is a) regarded as high literature among the literary elites, and b) not bleak?

  4. "is there anything published after 1950 that is a) regarded as high literature among the literary elites, and b) not bleak?"

    The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway?
    The elderly protagonist takes on an epic challenge to break his apparent bad-luck streak. Despite tremendous difficulties, he succeeds - not entirely, but enough to re-establish his credit as a fisherman.

    It won the Pulitzer and was huge bestseller, and contributed to Hemingway winning the Nobel Prize a few years later.