So you can read my books

Tuesday, April 9, 2013



But not in the way you may be thinking.

Stephen King wrote:
"Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent.

What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
Sadly, it is because reading is withering as a form of entertainment.
According to the NEA, less that one third of 13 year olds read for pleasure every day -
a 14% decline from 20 years ago.
The percentage of 17 year old non-readers doubled in that same 20 year time span.
If you're an American between the ages of 15-24, you spend 2 hours a day watching TV, but only 7 minutes a day reading according to this study.

Timothy Shanahan, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago and past president of the International Reading Association says that many young people say they don't read because it's lonely.

Shanahan continued,

"The Harry Potter books were popular not mainly because of this wonderful story and the language,

 but because it was this huge phenomenon that allowed young people to participate in it.

What was exciting was reading what your friends were reading and talking to them about it. People of all ages are hungry for that kind of community."

The Internet seems to fill that void for many disconnected individuals.

It is not difficult to see that reading a book, as opposed to going online, might suffer,

if the desire for feedback and community, lacking in today's anonymous society is satisfied most by the online substitute for actual human interaction.

What do you think are the reasons so few in today's society are reading? 

Or is the Kindle and other eReaders changing the reading habits of Americans for the better?

Is Audible audio books changing the "reading" habits of America?  And is listening to an audio book truly reading?


  1. Very good point! Those books helped kids connect.
    And yet when I was young, I read to cure loneliness, because I connected with the characters in the book.
    Wonder what has changed?

  2. I just love kids' books, so I hope my neices, nephews, and future children love to read cause I want to read them stories! It really does seem to fade when they have to do it themselves.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

  3. Alex:
    I read to ease my own loneliness as a child. Now, it is a visual/computer age. Children dream through video games, movies, and TV -- the illusion of being immersed in visual action and interactions make lonely pale in comparison I guess.

    I had the League of Five in junior high to read and watch serials and classic movies over the weekend and be read to by my Lakota Mother. (Dr. Fu Manchu if you can believe -- the precursor to Mandarin!)

    TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES got teenagers to read and compare notes for a short season. But 3 books are over so soon. JK's series was twice as long with movies to boot!

    With video games and TV and movies, you just sit back and flow with it -- your mind is unplugged mostly. Sad actually.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  4. Changing times. Saying that, I do think kids today read a lot. Maybe not paperbacks and the like, but certainly on a computer, whether it be school work or pleasure. Their faces will invariably be pressed to a screen.

    I also think kids are all different. Much like we were. Some will always have their noses in a book, others will find other things to do. Such is life.

    Another good post, Roland :)

  5. Great points. I actually have seen lots of kids reading lately and I think e-readers are part of the reason. I do count audio books as reading but I personally do not get the same level of satisfaction.

  6. I think we're losing them after picture books because Young Adult is a long way off and the middle readers are not as popular. They also don't have the coolest subjects but still dabble in cute and somewhat annoying picture book type subjects. I'm trying to engage a nine year old this week and it's a struggle. She prefers her Kindle games. Great post like always Roland.

  7. How sad are these statistics! I think e readers may help. It's true about today's youth... Social skllls are becoming mon existent .... The Internet is a blessing and a curse.

    Have you tried to communicate with people in their 20's and even 30's? You have to PULL the words out if them...
    Writer's , of course are never lost for words... Lol they are not included in my statement. Lol.

  8. Definitely think there's something to HP being such a success because it was an 'inclusive' thing. There were two groups: Those who'd read them, and those who hadn't. But EVERYONE knew of them, and everyone wanted to talk about them.

    It's why Goodreads is so popular, I think.

    Very excited for The Wolverine! :)

  9. Great quote from Stephen King. The loss of reading in our kids is a world-wide phenomena, sadly, having brought up my daughter in Britain and now Australia, where there are constant programs and incentives to try to get more kids reading. Australia has some really good authors catering to the kid's market.

    My daughter is an avid reader, probably because I started her off as a newborn, but I'm inclined to agree with a comment here - going from picture books into middle school / primary school, and her reading dropped - there just weren't enough available titles for her interest level. She reads above her age, so went onto Harry Potter quite early, but is still too young now to move onto the mid-YA's because of the more adult content. Some of her ten year old friends have read 'The Hunger Games' but I'm not letting her as yet. So saying that, what with the retro publishing of series like the Nancy Drew books etc, when I compare my youth and hers, my ten year old daughter has a much larger collection of reading material than I did.

    Unfortunately, it's expensive to buy books here in Australia, and the school's homework expectations and outside activities such as music and sports which everyone wants to do, mean that she has a lot less free time to simply read and relax than I did also. It's a really busy life for kids now, and perhaps that has a lot to do with it.

  10. I read to occupy my time when I was younger as did my kids. Along came the internet and that changed. Until my son had to drive long distances, he discovered a love for audio books. He reads them whenever he gets the chance.


  11. Wendy:
    Thanks for tweeting about this post!

    You're right: kids are all different -- but they face the new crazes. LOTR was re-discovered by the college crowd in the 1960's due to Ace paperbacks finding a legal loophole to be able to publish the 3 books w/o paying the estate of JRR Tolkien! Also LOTR benefited from the AD&D phenomenon.

    Now, it's the latest video game craze of the season or Xbox or iPad or something newer!

    And books take too long for this microwave culture! :-)

    I believe eReaders may help youngsters begin to read more. Audio books can be there for people who do not read yet drive a lot or need something "novel" for their iPhone on the subway.

    I can't skim the boring parts on audio books so I have to be selective!! :-)

    The Desert Rocks:
    What an insightful point! Yes, Middle Books have become a wasteland. Once when disaster struck my area, and I was forced to teach younger students than usual, I used KIM, THE TIME MACHINE, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, THE BLACK STALLION,(teaching grammar from the X-Men comics of Chris Clairemont who loved language), selected "spooky" tales of Sherlock, and the lesser known myths of the Norse and Native American!

    Yes! Texting is ruining their grammar and long term attention span! :-)

    If you take slang and connective words (Yeah, Really?, F___, Uh, huh) from their vocabulary, they flounder about for expression. Sigh.

    You're right: we writers tend to be broken dams of words!!

    Thanks for visiting when your WiFi problems are still with you!

    I am very excited for Wolverine, too. It looks like they are doing him as he should have done all along.

    Now, if only you and I can create a literary world that becomes a magnet for the imagination of a generation, right?

    I hate that books are so expensive in Australia. How about the libraries there -- poorly funded or too distant or too few?

    I agree with you that the dying of reading is a worldwide phenomenon and frightening.

    Life demands we think THROUGH issues ... books encourage people to think deeper into subjects than mere sound bites of news and solutions to tv problems in 22 minutes plus commercials allow.

    Schools seem to drain young people of most of their free time, allowing little time just to pursue their own curiosities. :-(

    Thanks for visiting and staying to comment so insightfully. :-)

  12. Elsie:
    Yes, the internet has become a time and attention drain for a certainty! Audio books may be the salvation of many authors! Thanks so much for visiting! :-)

  13. Back when I was between the ages of 15-24, I watched twice that much TV—maybe more. Now I don't watch two hours of TV in a week, but I read constantly. Perhaps there's still hope?

    Wendy is right, kids do read their computer screens. It may be a different type of reading, but it's a door in. Maybe a few more unique books might help, too. Publishers tend to publish the same thing over and over.

    And yes, UNABRIDGED audiobooks are reading, but not all books are audio friendly. I'm not keen on listening to literary fiction for example.

    ~VR Barkowski

  14. VR:
    I watched similar amounts of TV in those years as well. But TV has changed as has my tastes: we have come to the parting of the ways.

    JUSTIFIED, SUPERNATURAL, ENDGAME, GRIMM those are about it for me these days.

    Like you, I read constantly: non-fiction and fiction. AUDIO BOOKS I count as reading, too. I get every word as opposed to skimming over parts that bore me.

    I listened to the 2nd auto by GORE VIDAL but the sad effect in his voice from his depression over the death of his lover and the dying of so many friends got to me.

    Wendy does have a point. But internet reading is short and lacks depth -- so I find the mental grasp of young people I talk to reflect that shallowness and lack of perspective -- but that is the hallmark of youth, isn't it? :-) And me, all too often!

    Another insightful comment. Thanks!

  15. I know you're talking about the States, Roland, but Australians are voracious readers--per capita, we're the biggest readers in the world. Maybe that's why our indie bookstores flourish, why you can't walk anywhere without seeing people of all ages with their noses in mainly print books, and why when a writer friend advertised classes in creative writing for kids, she's been working non stop. So it's not all doom and gloom. Long live reading!

  16. Denise:
    I'm truly glad to hear that. Hunter earlier said that Middle Grade books (their lack of number and quality) were dampening the thirst to read for young students.

    Maybe I should advertise my books in Australia? :-)

  17. I truly hope it isn't dying. As long as there are beautiful books out there to read, I know I'll keep doing it and I hope my kids will grow up with the same need to devour books that I have.

  18. kATE:
    I believe there is hope for reading because of mothers like you and Kindle and Audio books. I'm crossing my fingers!! :-)

    Thanks for visiting. I loved your illustrations -- especially the esctastic mouse hugging the can of Spam! :-)

  19. Listening to audio books or a parent reading aloud whets the interest and desire to read.

  20. This is a great conversation starter. Perhaps the internet has changed things markedly with reading. When I was a kid, this didn't exist. No social medial like FB, no cell phones. Therefore, books were the only means of escape...for me.

  21. I guess I knew that reading as a pastime was declining, but it's still sad to hear it. I'd say reading habits are largely formed by how much your parents encourage you to read as a young child. My mum always loved books, and she taught me to read before I started primary school. We always had lots of books in our house and were in the routine of reading together before bed. Yet some of my peers grew up without a single book in the house, and their parents would never read to them. I think it's unlikely that they enjoy reading now, so they won't pass that on to their children either, which is sad. I may be old fashioned, but I'd rather have an overflowing bookcase than an X-Box.

  22. I've never listened to an audio book. I don't know, I just really like reading. And in a car or exercising, I just can't concentrate on books in any form.

  23. Those are sad statistics. It makes me wonder where kids will be ten years from now, twenty years. I don't listen to audio books. That doesn't seem like reading to me. More like becoming a blind person and listening to a movie. Knowing this,I guess we should strive to make our stories even better. :)

  24. Susan:
    Mother read to me when young, and when I was in junior high, she read to me and four friends spooky tales she thought would engage our imagination!

    Susan O.:
    Yes, the internet and FB and Twitter and texting have all diminished the appeal of reading for young students these days. :-(

    Yes, give me a bookcase full of good books any day over an Xbox! But I am a dinosaur in that feeling!

    I didn't think I would enjoy audio books in a car either, but I liked DUMA KEY so much as a book, I decided to listen to it in the car, and I was hooked!

    Gyspy thanks you for reading her post in the sidebar. I think of her ghost padding around my apartment and reading beside me!

    Yes, ten to twenty years from now, I beleive reading will be a withered form of entertainment. Sigh.