I not only read but also write—short stories, poems, and murder mystery novels. My work is nothing super special, but it’s mine. I like to think it is an avenue providing escape, relaxation, entertainment, and a certain amount of pleasure to my readers. Sadly, book readership in America is declining, and I find that fact a bit depressing for several reasons, not the least of which is book sales. Beyond a personal business perspective, I am concerned for the long-term effects on society. Those effects can be devastating.
People Who Read Are Smarter
It’s true. People who read are, by in large, smarter. Why? Because reading is an essential skill that plays a vital role in personal and societal development. People who read books are often less ignorant about people, places, and things than people who don’t. Reading signifies a baseline intelligence, and careful choices of reading material may enhance that intelligence. Reading allows individuals to expand their knowledge, improve cognitive abilities and imagination, and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Reading for pleasure also provides an enjoyable and relaxing way to unwind and escape from the stresses of daily life. However, the statistics show reading for pleasure is becoming less common among Americans. According to ThinkImpact’s Literacy Statistics, in 2004, 28% of Americans age 15 and older read for pleasure on a given day. Last year, in 2022, the figure was about 19%. This decline in reading for pleasure is concerning and highlights the importance of encouraging and promoting reading among individuals of all ages.
Not Reading Has Considerable Downsides
Illiteracy is a significant problem in the United States, with 21% of adults being illiterate in 2022, and 54% having a literacy level below 6th grade. Illiteracy not only hinders the personal growth and development of individuals, but also has a detrimental effect on society. Low levels of literacy lead to a lack of workforce productivity, increased poverty, and higher crime rates. Studies have shown that illiterate individuals are more likely to be unemployed, have lower earning potential, and be dependent on government assistance. Furthermore, they are more likely to end up in prison, have poor health outcomes, and be unable to fully participate in society.
The cost of illiteracy is staggering, with some estimates suggesting that it costs the US up to $2.2 trillion per year. This highlights the importance of addressing the problem of illiteracy and investing in programs that promote literacy and reading. These programs include adult literacy programs, English as a second language classes, and programs that provide children with access to books and reading materials.
I have no doubt reading is an essential skill that plays a vital role in personal and societal development. However, the decline in reading for pleasure among Americans and the high levels of illiteracy in the US do not bode well for the future. I believe it is crucial to encourage and promote reading among individuals of all ages and invest in programs and activities promoting literacy and reading. By addressing the problem of illiteracy, we can improve the productivity of our workforce, reduce poverty, and create a more educated and engaged society.
And, while we are on the subject, what have you read lately?