Daniel Gioia, chair of the NEA, wants you to be afraid. Very afraid.
A couple of years ago reading was at risk, just as was the nation during the Reagan era when school reform was on the agenda. (Glad they fixed that.) Though when I read Gioia’s jeremiad introduction to the report, then looked a the data in the report, I thought perhaps numeracy was more at risk than literacy.
He’s made another discovery, and is alarmed. Kids read less in their teen years! Harry Potter hasn’t changed anything! It’s a national crisis! Brace yourselves for a barrage of code-red PR.
If it’s a crisis it has been around for generations. Pleasure reading always falls off in the teen years. Luckily a lot of people, including librarians, are coming up with bright ways to keep teens engaged with books. If anything, public libraries are more teen-friendly than ever.
If you want to know the real low-down on reading, take a look at Reading Matters, edited by Catherine Sheldrick Ross. Solid data, fascinating analysis, and (something I wish the NEA would adopt for a change) historical perspective. And it’s very well written, so a joy to read.