Monday, November 21, 2016

Make Reading Great Again

In 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that almost a quarter of Americans hadn't read any amount of a book within the past year, whether through an audio book, an e-reader, or a real hardcover.  This percentage of non-readers has tripled since 1978, according to Pew.

Pew published this poll:

Now this poll shows that us bookworms are becoming an even rarer species.

But this doesn't satisfy me!

It's time to host a reading crusade and pull people back into the wonderful world of reading once and for all.

We need to change the mindset that reading is just another way to pass the time or forget about your problems. 

We book lovers need to propagate the truth that the internet, TV, and movies are not a proper replacement for a novel or book in hand.

It needs to be clear that reading has been and must continue to be one of the most enlightening and worthwhile tasks in existence.

Are you willing to go forward to restore reading to it's former glory?

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l-o-t-r - Tumblr

Reading is not just another way to pass the time.  In fact, we as humans should make a concerted effort to make time for reading; to make it a priority.

I don't think that a lot people in today's day and age appreciate just how valuable literacy is.  It wasn't too long ago that only a few members of society could even write their names.  People in first world countries have access to a historically unparalleled amount of information collectively.

Think of this: at no time in history has as much information been available, period.

At this very second, the moment that you are reading this post, intellectual property is being created.  Last week, there wasn't as much knowledge available as there is now.  A hundred years ago, there was not even close to the number of books around for us to peruse.

There is no better time for a bookworm to be alive than today.

"All we have to decide is what do with the time that is given to us."

Gandalf once said that, and today, I think we as a society collectively are massively squandering the time we have.

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The One Ring

"But Jenny," you say, "À chacun son goût, as the French would say.  You may want to read, and I may want to spend more time at work or watching TV.  Reading just isn't for me, just like watching TV may not be for you."

Au contraire!  I respond indignantly.  Reading does have a measurable and important effect on the human mind in a way that other activities don't.  Congnitive activities like reading and writing have been shown to slow mental decay and cognitive decline in old age (independent of neurodegenerative diseases), according to, the most widely-read and peer reviewed neurology journal.

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The Reader Organisation

In the same study, researchers found that high reading rates in old age reduced the risk of dementia by 32% compared to those who did not have high rates of reading.  The extra mental activity provided by the high reading rates accounted for 15% of the difference in memory decline.

If you could pro-actively slow your memory decline by 15%, wouldn't you?

“Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” says Robert S. Wilson, the author of the report, and a a neuropsychologist at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
To read more on this, click here and here.

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Alzheimer's Reading Room

Furthermore, according to the Centre for Longitudal Studies, reading early on in life significantly improves academic ability in children and can give them a boost over their peers.

According to the study, "the IOE study, which is believed to be the first to examine the effect of reading for pleasure on cognitive development over time, found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read."

The high rates of reading was found to be even more important a factor in student success than even the level of education of the parents of the children.

If you could easily give your child a boost by encouraging them to read as they enter school, wouldn't you?

To read more about this, click here.

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Kid Nurse

The facts remain that reading is not just like "any other activity".  Replacing reading with activities that lack the cognitive benefits is not an equal trade-off, and unfortunately is taking place more and more often in our society.

Reading is not a place to go to forget about your problems, either.  Some reading is explicitly meant to be "escapist", but that is rarely truly the case.

Reading, when done properly is not meant to have people forget about their lives, but to have stories taken in and enjoyed, and then have the themes and messages lived out in real life.  Unlike games like Temple Run, Flappy Bird, PokemonGo and any number of mindless apps that have been sweepingly popular in the past few years, books are not escapist tools and actually help people learn things about their lives.

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Flappy Bird Stats

Are you convinced that reading is an important cognitive skill?

Perhaps you were to start off with anyway, and these stats have just solidified your position.

But then why aren't we as a country reading??

The truth is, the blame is largely on us bookworms, librarians, publishers, and authors.

Books get their start with authors.  A book may fall into the hands of a literary genius who will craft it with precision and intent, or it may fall into the hands of an amateur.

All authors deserve a pat on the back because goodness knows it is hard to get a book pushed out, or even a draft (*cough cough* le livre), but I think the large majority of the time our authors are flying blind without proper education.

This epidemic of educated authors is not only a problem in the literary field.  Resources are largely accessible today so any person can work on whatever they want.  Before, it was only in the power of studios to create videos and get them out to the public. Today, anyone with a camera and a computer can start a YouTube channel and create content.

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Before, only real tech-nerds or people with expertise could write a blog post critiquing current reading patterns, but today, a regular old person like me can rant about whatever they'd like.

This is a marvel of the modern era, but it also has its downfalls.

With so many inexperienced people creating content out there, there is a tendency for readers to be exposed to content that's not-so-great and be turned off to the idea of reading forever.

This leads me to the fault in the publishers.

It's a dark little secret in the book-writing world that publishers truly have a lot of control over what authors can and cannot write about.  Publishers want books that are going to appeal to wide audiences, and authors that are going to come up with books on a regular basis that they can quickly stamp with a cover and get out the door.

James Patterson publishes a short book almost every year, each one with a similar cover, and similar plot line.  He has been heavily criticized (not without merit) for caring more about pushing books out than actually creating quality material.

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Stephen King words it perfectly, and you can read what he has to say about half-hearted cash-grab books here.

James Patterson and authors like him would not be able to publish half-hearted books and be successful like this if it weren't for publishing companies that were willing to process whatever will sell.  Publishers: be more discriminative about what you are publishing.  We are counting on you to give us quality content we want to read.

Publishers are at fault because they let so many mediocre books by, into the reading pool.  Unsuspecting readers may give a few (or many!) of their books a try and decide that reading isn't all that great.  But it's not reading that's the problem, it's the proliferation of bad content in the publishing industry.

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Know Your Meme

Librarians and teachers, now it's on you.

I've heard so many kids complain that they've never read any good books that they enjoy.  That is the fault of the adults who are supposed to teach kids how to find what they are looking for and introduce them to content suited for them.

Don't just recommend whatever contemporary-teen-rubbish is new at the library.  Give kids classics suited to their level, and do a better job at explaining to them the significance.  Explain to kids that books are meant to help them learn, and aren't just for entertainment.

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If you're trying to find a book solely for entertainment for a kid, good luck.  TV and movies are always going to be infinitely more entertaining than books to kids these days.  Put emphasis on the traits books have that other sources of entertainment just don't.  That's how you get kids hooked on books.

Lastly, the blame should rest on all of us bookworms.  We have found the secret to reading, and it's our job to propagate this to other people.  Help your friends or people who don't read much find a book they will love.  Spread your love of books as best you can, and make sure people don't get stuck with the stuffy characterization that books are for nerds and try-hards.

You are awesome and fun, and you read books!  Everyone, all kinds of people can read.

You've heard "everyone can cook", and now I say, "everyone can read".  They just need the right books.  And that's the job of us bookworms, librarians, publishers, and authors.

Don't let reading become a dead art in our country, or around the world.

The time has come to


  1. YES THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! I thoroughly agree that more people should read. And you're using more French!!! It's so nice to read French, is it not?