Americans — particularly teenagers and young adults — are reading less for fun.
At the same time,
reading scores among those who read less are declining,
and employers are proclaiming workers deficient in basic reading comprehension skills.
So that’s the bad news.
But is all hope gone, or will people still be drawn to the
And what is it, exactly, that turns someone into a book lover who keeps coming back for more?
There is no empirical answer.
If there were, more books would sell as well as the “Harry Potter” series or the "Twilight"
series or "The Hunger Games" series or “The Da Vinci Code.”
The gestation of a true, committed reader is in some ways a magical process,
shaped in part by external forces but also by a spark within the imagination.
Here are some thoughts:
1.) The right book at the right time can ignite a lifelong habit.
It can be like a drug in a positive way. If you get the book that makes the person
fall in love with reading, they want another one.
2.) Most often, that experience occurs in childhood.
In “The Child That Books Built,” Francis Spufford, a British journalist and critic,
writes of how “the furze of black marks between ‘The Hobbit’'s pages
grew lucid, and released a dragon,” turning him into “an addict.
3.) But what makes that one book a trigger for continuous reading?
For some, it’s the discovery that a book’s character is like you,
or thinks and feels like you.
In an interview, Mr. Alexie, a prize winning author of children's literature,
said “The Snowy Day” by Jack Keats transformed him from someone who read
regularly into a true bookhound.
“I really think it’s the age at which you find that book that you really identify with
that determines the rest of your reading life,” Mr. Alexie said.
“The younger you are when you do that, the more likely you’re going to be a serious reader.
It really is about finding yourself in a book.”
4.) for others, it’s not so much identification
as the embrace of the Other that draws them into reading.
“It’s that excitement of trying to discover that unknown world,” said Azar Nafisi,
the author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran,”
the best-selling memoir about a book group she led in Iran.
5.) Certain books become phenomena.
like those in the Harry Potter series or “The Da Vinci Code” or,
to a slightly lesser extent most books recommended for Oprah Winfrey’s book club —
can, in tempting people to read in the first place, create habitual readers.
Perhaps more often, however, those readers just wait for the next “hot” book.
The question of whether reading, or reading books in particular,
is essential is complicated by the fact that part of what draws people to books
can now be found elsewhere — and there is only so much time to consume it all.
So? What do you think? Is there any hope that reading will continue past this video generation?
What book started you reading? Why do you still read today?
a LEAGUE OF FIVE favorite: