Tuesday, March 29, 2022


Reading—or reading with a fervent purpose in philosophy, history, and literature—is vanishing from the lives of Americans, especially the young. The number of people who read for pleasure—and the serious reading of an autodidact is very much a worthy pleasure, as my friend has shown—has declined 30 percent since 2004. Twenty-eight percent of Americans used to read for pleasure; this number has now fallen to just 19 percent. For people who do read, the amount of time they devote to it has also significantly declined—more so for men. And for those who revere reading and consider themselves to be bibliophiles and bookhounds, the fact that only 43 percent of adults have read one novel, one short story, one poem, or one play in the past year is enough to throw a person into the clutches of literary despair. Reading is often a predictor for success in life. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that adults with incomes of less than $30,000 per year are three times as likely as affluent households to be “non-book readers.”

For children the results are even starker. Two-thirds of the country’s poorest children do not own a single book. And yet, the benefits of reading for pleasure are enormous. As Miranda McKearney, co-founder of the Reading Agency, a British charity that encourages reading and literacy, has powerfully stated, reading is this “nearly magical thing that can bust you out of poverty.” The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has suggested that encouraging reading might be “one of the most effective ways to leverage social change.” Oxford University researchers studying all of the extracurricular activities sixteen-year-olds participate in found that only one has significant benefits in the workplace later in life: reading for pleasure. Living in a home that possesses a private library, or even the mere presence of books, has profound advantages for children.

Jeremy Adams, Hollowed Out: A Warning about America's Next Generation (87). [No Date] Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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