Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Effects of Media and Reading

I go to the market. I see preschoolers sitting in shopping carts hooked into Ipods and other forms of electronics, watching cartoons, listening to music. I go to the doctor’s office. A young teen walks in, sits down and puts on earphones connected to something in her pocket. Another young person walks in, already plugged into his earphones.

According to the New York Times, studies link a drop in test scores to a decline in time spent reading. I am not as concerned about ‘test scores’ as I am about the fact I see electronics everywhere, at the park, at the beach, in airports, on airplanes and in places where a generation ago, people brought books and read.

According to a report based on an analysis of data from about two-dozen studies from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Census Bureau, less than half of all Americans over 18 read. They no longer read novels, short stories, plays or poetry. There is a drop off in reading for pleasure as we progress from elementary to high school. The drop continues even through college. Some continue to read newspapers and magazines. But not enough.

Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts says, “we live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading, literature and authors.” In his 99-page report, Mr. Gioia described the data as “simple, consistent and alarming.”

I’m alarmed. A society that doesn’t read is susceptible to being manipulated by hearsay and propaganda. A society that doesn’t read, doesn’t think as clearly or as analytically as a society that reads and questions. An illiterate society doesn’t know how to gather information and make individual decisions. A society that doesn’t read, loses a valuable part of its culture. Worse, a society that doesn’t read, doesn’t write, doesn’t encourage writers, doesn’t buy books. If we lose our writers, we lose independent thought. We lose individual perspective. We run the risk of losing our intellectual freedom and maybe freedom itself…all for an electronic quick fix.


Cathy said...

Yesterday I shared this post with my two children. They feel very different about the electronic world. They feel alarmed that adults don't credit them for the amount of reading and writing they do. My daughter pointed out how daily she is online creating stories and poems with friends, how the electronic world provides her a place to share her writing with many and also to read the writing of peers. Also she is reading a variety of interesting topics that are within minutes of her fingers. Both kids love how even our local libary now provides mp3 players so they can listen to books in the car since reading and riding in a car make them carsick. My son reminded how many times he has played a video game that sparked more interest in a historical time period and together, he and I have gone to the computer to find more information. Many times this search also lead us to some great books which we checked out from our local library. They both spend time reading in bed before sleeping every night, but for them, reading doesn't have to just come in book form.

Anyhow, I just thought is was interesting to see this from a child's point of view.

As always, thanks for making us think Resa. ~Cathy

Kiana Tafoya said...

Would it be possible if you could add some news articles or anything of that nature to corroborate your blog? I'm doing a research paper on this particular subject and it is a bit hard to find something that I can use as a source.