Again, The Importance Of Reading

November 19, 2007

The National Endowment For The Arts has released a report today (“To Read Or Not To Read”) with more disappointing results including the decline of voluntary reading by older children and young adults, the decline of national test scores by students in middle school through high school and the decline in proficiency of adult readers. One of the conclusions on page 94 states: “Greater academic, professional, and civic benefits [are] associated with high levels of leisure reading and reading comprehension.”

According to the article in today’s New York Times which reports on the study: “Americans — particularly young Americans — appear to be reading less for fun, and as that happens, their reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students whose access to books is limited, and employers are rating workers deficient in basic writing skills.” “These trends are concurrent with a falloff in daily pleasure reading among young people as they progress from elementary to high school, a drop that appears to continue once they enter college. The data also showed that students who read for fun nearly every day performed better on reading tests than those who reported reading never or hardly at all.”

“The new report also looked at data from the workplace, including a survey that showed nearly three-quarters of employers who were polled rated “reading comprehension” as “very important” for workers with two-year college degrees, and nearly 90 percent of employers said so for graduates of four-year colleges. Better reading skills were also correlated with higher income.”

“In an analysis of Education Department statistics looking at eight weekly income brackets, the data showed that 7 percent of full-time workers who scored at levels deemed “below basic” on reading tests earned $850 to $1,149 a week, the fourth-highest income bracket, while 20 percent of workers who had scored at reading levels deemed “proficient” earned such wages.”

“In an interview Mr. Gioia (Chairman of the NEA) said that the statistics could not explain why reading had declined, but he pointed to several commonly accepted culprits, including the proliferation of digital diversions on the Internet and other gadgets, and the failure of schools and colleges to develop a culture of daily reading habits. In addition, Mr. Gioia said, “we live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading, literature and authors.”