At the end of June…June 26 to be exact, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on their op-ed page called The Young and the Bookless (behind paywall). That was enough to get my attention. Written by Danny Heitman, who has plenty of street cred, he bemoans the fact that as he began teaching his first college writing class this spring, he quickly realized that most of the 16 students hadn’t read a book for fun since…wait for it…Harry Potter!
This sad state of affairs only went to further support a 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts that noted that the number of 17 year olds who NEVER read for pleasure had increased to 19% in 2004 from 9% in 1984. And shockingly, almost 50% of Americans between 18-24 NEVER read books for FUN!
As a parent and a grandparent, I find these statistics alarming. I love books…that’s probably obvious, and I have tried hard to instill a love for books in our children and now in our grandchild. I want to believe that I am succeeding. Just last week, my husband walked in after dinner, and our youngest son (in his 20’s) and I were sitting in companionable silence, each with a book…it was a moment, because we could just as easily both have had our iPads.
My point is, reading is essential to life in many ways. But as Mr. Heitman says at the end of his article, “I want my students to read for pleasure this summer because reading can improve their heads and hearts. But I also want them to read for fun because it is fun.”