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Re: That Darn NEA Report

So I'm reading the NEA "To Read or Not To Read" report. Here are some thoughts:

*I wish they would define reading material as used in this study. There's a disclaimer saying that, "Finally, except
where book reading or literary reading rates are specifically mentioned, all references
to voluntary reading are intended to cover all types of reading materials." (p.22) But
let's face it, there's lots of other serious reading cultural discourse (comics, manga, magazines, blogs, etc) that's going on nowadays. I know from experience that a number of kids don't consider comics or manga "reading" because their teachers (or possibly bad librarians) told them it wasn't.

They make a similar disclaimer for the discussion of the 2004 "Reading at Risk" report, where this time they clarify that yes "online reading" is counted (p.24). But does that hold for the newer report?

I also wish they would focus more on testing abilities of comprehension (as in "reading comprehension levels have dropped X% since 2004"): what does that mean? Are there any questions focusing on critical efforts?

E.g. You hand a kid a piece of paper that says "The dog is brown." Do you then ask the kid "What color is the dog?" or do you ask "What kind of dog do you think it is and why?" Yes I'm making this overly simple but honestly it's the best I can come up with at 1am. And I still wanna know.

*Correlation between readers and civic leaders.
18- to 34-year-olds, whose reading rates are the lowest for any adult
under 65, show declines in cultural and civic participation. [...] Literary readers are more than twice as likely as non-readers to volunteer or do charity work.
(p. 18).
I have a quibble with this: Ours is the most debt-ridden, overworked and underpaid generation in American history. Most people my age are saddled with serious debts from education and are faced with an ever crapping economy that largely means working multiple jobs for little pay and less benefits. You know what happens if you leave for work at 7am and come home around 7pm (and you're lucky enough to not have another job to go to or children to rear): you generally have a few hours of chores and maybe two hours for entertainment of any kind. Social revolutions are not made of this lifestyle.

[Related political snap: 84% of Proficient readers voted in the 2000 presidential election, compared with 53% of Below-Basic readers. (p.19) Yes, and we all voted for Al Gore.)

*Define "literature" and "literary reading" for gods' sake, particularly as used on p.23. I read a helluva lot of books, and I have no clue how many any of them people would consider "literary."

*Random: what's with the photo spread of the hot white male reading on page 26?

*Second random: What is with the questions about "reading for fun for five minutes" or "reading for fun for 30 minutes?" (currently p.31 but repeated multiple times throughout) Who blocks their time like that aside possibly William Gladstone, RIP?

*Why is reading seen as more pointedly virtuous than watching TV? Note language bias:
Although all age groups read far less than they watch TV, we may take heart
that 15- to 24-year-olds spend a lower percentage of their leisure time, relative to
other age groups, on TV-watching.
(p.38) Note also obligatory Neil Postman quote on page 41.

*Ambiguous question on page 45: “Have you read any books in the past year or haven’t you
had the chance to read a book in the past year?” With a 73% result. I'm not sure how to answer that myself...

*Discussion of book purchasing pp. 46-51. They discuss the average amount people spend on books and adjust it for inflation, but they don't discuss the likewise inflated cost of books themselves. (The biggest seller this summer hand's down was a kid's book. The average price for $19.99. If you didn't go to a megastore you probably bought it for closer to $35. And you all know which book I'm talking about too.)

*Obligatory ode to the seeming death of the newspaper pp.52-53. See elsewhere in this blog for my rants on that issue.

*Random photo spread of hot minority female p.54.

*Obligatory gender gap notation p.62 and 65-66.

*Photo spread of puzzled-seeming non-hottie in work environment, p.76.

*Emphatic disappointment that in the global scheme, American scores are only average: p.85. In a range of Finland being #1 and Mexico #26, the US is only #15. No noted correlation between reading level and patriotism, which somehow disappoints me.

*Gratuitous Robert Frost quote p.86. (Sorry, I can't stand Frost.)

*Fascinating Current Events Information table on p.89 that strongly implies that proficient readers are more likely to go to the internet than newspapers.

*C.S. Lewis quote on p.90 that made nice counterbalance to John Henry Newman quote on p.33 and Virginia Woolf quote on p.95. What's with all the dead white folk??

More later.

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