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Reading on the Decline in US

Education Reading Decline in US

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#21 Cardie

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 03:45 PM

Dickens is my absolute favorite novelist in the world, but he's usually mangled by high school teachers.  I had fortunately read a lot of him on my own before we were dragged droningly through A Tale of Two Cities.

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#22 Josh

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 04:43 PM

The word "literature" is a loaded one either way. In my creative writing class, my teacher always separated "literature" and genre fiction (the latter she would always mention with disdain in her voice).

Frankly, I'd take a good fantasy book over some of the literature I've had to read (like "Ceremony". Yuck) any day.
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#23 Cardie

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 05:00 PM

But this study did not make that distinction.  It counted any poetry, play or narrative fiction.  I'm sure if the survey asked about what your teacher called "literature," only about 10% of the population would have read any in the past year.  (But what is Ceremony?--it's not any great work of art I've ever heard of.)

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#24 Corwin

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 05:03 PM

Cardie, on Jul 8 2004, 03:58 PM, said:

But this study did not make that distinction.  It counted any poetry, play or narrative fiction.  I'm sure if the survey asked about what your teacher called "literature," only about 10% of the population would have read any in the past year.  (But what is Ceremony?--it's not any great work of art I've ever heard of.)

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:D


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#25 Shalamar

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 05:21 PM

I read, I read voraciously. In less than a week I've devoured three books, and I've been slacking.  

The Baen Free Library on line is a wonderful thing too.

To here that so many people stopped enjoying the printed word is sadening to me. Like Pickles said, there's something about a book.

And Cardie, you are absolutely correct about getting kids excited about reading, about the infinite possibilities hidden with in books,  as early as possible.
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#26 emsparks

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:10 PM

Three points:

1.) Again the author of the above article, takes the time-honored position of blaming the victims.

2.) Have you looked at the statistics on time spent at work, without over time pay, and the number of people holding down two jobs? The problem here may be that given the uncertainty in the work place and the increasing productivity demands on many of those that would read books, if they had the leisure time to do so. Today in this God awful job market, very many people donít have the leisure time to read for pleasure, a situation that could very easily account for the drop in book sales.

3.) As I have said in the past: the ability to read automatically / efficiently is a genetic predisposition given to only about 25% of the population. Those of us who are euphuistically called functional literates do not find reading to be in any way pleasurable, the efficient / automatic reader however finds reading quite pleasurable, and in that is the problem, and no amount of remediation will ever change it. Functional literates like my self donít read because itís too painful and very time consuming. So until those facts are faced the statistics will not change much. But then I wonít get into the functionality in controlling the society, by academiaís big lie about universal literacy, a point that very few here would agree withÖ

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#27 Drew

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:39 PM

Chipper, on Jul 8 2004, 11:58 AM, said:

The Scarlet Letter (blech; why was this read?  to tie into American HIstory classes.  Horrible book; almost universal dislike among my classmates)
The Crucible  -- been there, done Salem a long time ago
Yes, but both books will teach you to hate the Puritans, which is part of the agenda.  :cool:

Quote

Death of a Salesman -- I didn't even pick it up

It's supposed to make you hate the middle class.  :cool:

Quote

Grapes of Wrath -- 'nuff said.

It's supposed to make you worship the poor.  :cool:
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#28 Drew

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:42 PM

Cardie, on Jul 8 2004, 02:17 PM, said:

Yes, the Heaney is always what I recommend to people first encountering Beowulf.
The Heaney translation got me through a two and a half-hour plane trip a month or so after 9/11.

I hate flying anyway . . . post-9/11 I was a basket case about it. Heaney kept me sane.  :upside:
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#29 Iolanthe

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:43 PM

Cardie, on Jul 8 2004, 01:20 PM, said:

Many of the classics from other time periods are taught way too early in high school, but if you don't teach them then, there's the justifiable fear that the students will never look toward them again.
I managed to shock a colleague of mine recently by telling him I'd been assigned to read Heart of Darkness as a sophomore in high school. Needless to say, it hadn't gone over very well. (I liked it a lot better, though, when I had to read it again as a college freshman...)

Chipper said:

Quote

Because rather than having schools suggest books that they think will interest students to be read in class, they read books that only serve to bore people into doing other things other than read.

Well, boring and interesting are highly subjective, you know... ;) (There are people out there who think Shakespeare is boring, perish the thought!)

I'm actually teaching a section of Intro to Lit in the fall -- this is the first time the department's given me a lit course. It's actually a tremendous balancing act, choosing things that I think I would be able to teach well but would also engage the interests of my students (college freshmen and sophomores, for the most part). So this is an interesting thread for me -- obviously I'm invested in getting people interested in literature, although I'm not sure what the best way to do it is.
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#30 Drew

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:51 PM

Iolanthe, on Jul 8 2004, 06:41 PM, said:

Cardie, on Jul 8 2004, 01:20 PM, said:

Many of the classics from other time periods are taught way too early in high school, but if you don't teach them then, there's the justifiable fear that the students will never look toward them again.
I managed to shock a colleague of mine recently by telling him I'd been assigned to read Heart of Darkness as a sophomore in high school. Needless to say, it hadn't gone over very well. (I liked it a lot better, though, when I had to read it again as a college freshman...)
I noticed that happening to me a lot. Didn't care for "The Red Badge of Courage" in high school. Loved it in my early 30s. (Do they still assign that one?)

But "Heart of Darkness"? What's shocking about that? (Besides the fact that it'd cause even the perkiest cheerleader to slip into deep depression.)
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#31 DWF

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 06:51 PM

Javert Rovinski, on Jul 8 2004, 11:37 AM, said:

1) How do they define 'reading literature'? They seem to be awfully bookcentric. What  about somebody who watched Lord of the Rings or read Dickens on the internet for free?
2) Books aren't  inherently superior to movies or television, and it's silly to pretend that they are. There are very good books, and there's a lot of good television.
This means little, whether or not you're reading a bad book, you ARE reading something, which means you might actually learn something, if anything how Lit rules actually work. Watching TV whether it be good or bad, only means sitting in front of a TV set, veggatating on couch, chair, floor, stool, what have you.

And reading the comic book version of Moby Dick isn't the same as actually reading the prose version of the book. ;)
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#32 Iolanthe

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 07:04 PM

Drew, on Jul 8 2004, 06:49 PM, said:

But "Heart of Darkness"? What's shocking about that? (Besides the fact that it'd cause even the perkiest cheerleader to slip into deep depression.)
Well, part of it I guess is that we tend to underestimate what younger readers are capable of -- but then, too, Conrad is a pretty tough read for a 15-year-old.
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#33 Drew

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 07:06 PM

Iolanthe, on Jul 8 2004, 07:02 PM, said:

Drew, on Jul 8 2004, 06:49 PM, said:

But "Heart of Darkness"? What's shocking about that? (Besides the fact that it'd cause even the perkiest cheerleader to slip into deep depression.)
Well, part of it I guess is that we tend to underestimate what younger readers are capable of -- but then, too, Conrad is a pretty tough read for a 15-year-old.
I suppose. But certainly easier than "The Scarlet Letter."  :cool:
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#34 Cardie

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 07:40 PM

Conrad's style is a bit of a slog for your average high schooler or even undergraduate.  I only started truly appreciating Conrad when I was in my mid-twenties.

I was teaching HoD to a sophomore fiction survey class, and had just finished taking them through all the complexities of what makes Kurtz become engulfed by his soul's darkness, and what saves Marlow.  I paued for questions, as the metaphysics can be a bit much.  One young woman raises her had and says, "You know when he's waiting at the inner station for the rivets to arrive . . ."  Ah, I think, she wants to know about their symbolism, the act of holding together the ruined boat "Just what are rivets?" she concludes.  :rolleyes:

Oh, Drew, Death of a Salesman isn't supposed to make you hate the middle class, it's supposed to make you hate consumer capitalism.  :devil:

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#35 GenesisII

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 08:58 PM

Pickles, on Jul 8 2004, 09:48 AM, said:

e-Books vs Printed books
Thanks but no thanks to e-Books. My eyes get tired after being on the computer and I like to be able to change my focus to natural light and the printed word on paper. I could contact my eye doc and get the statistics, but the health issues of always reading via a computer screen are real. You need to readjust the focal point of your eyes or you will eventually cause permanent damage to them. So spending all my time reading online and ebooks is not something I want to do.

Plus, as a bibliophile, there is just something very wonderful about a book.
I agree with Pickles when it comes to e-books. I have the same problem with computer monitors. My eyes bother me after being on a computer for awhile.

As far as considering the point of literacy, I don't see where a people has to read classics and the like to be considered literate. I hated lit classes in school. I was expected to read stories I had no interest in. I don't understand why a person must read poems, plays, narrative fiction to be considered a good reader. I choose books which either entertain me or fill me in on interests I have. It's not that I don't understand the classics but rather they don't stimulant me. If these were all I had to read I very well might not read.

It can't be said tv is a facter for me not reading what they would have me to. I watch very little tv. I can easily say I watch about 10 hours maximun a week. Usually less.

Maybe instead of requiring said classics we should be letting people discover what kind of books they enjoy and let them read them.  :)

I have two books on the way in the mail which I ordered from Amazon. I can't wait for them to arrive so I can settle down for somemore good reading.

Edited by GenesisII, 08 July 2004 - 09:02 PM.


#36 Corwin

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 09:13 PM

It's not really the focul point of the eyes... It's the radiation from the monitor constantly bombarding your eyes.


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#37 UoR11

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 09:19 PM

I think the lack of reading's largly caused by the same thing that causes so many people to hate math: the fact that our educational system takes something that is inherently interesting and crushing all the enjoyment out of it. I think part of the reason I enjoy reading as much as I do was the fact I managed to dodge having to take English in college due to my test scores and a few essays I submitted. I also had two excellent English teachers in high school, who had some faith in the intellegence of the class. But the other two classes were absolute torture. Having 9th graders reading Great Expectations is foolish enough, but telling them everything that's going to happen before you get to that part is just insane, taking away the hope that something interesting might happen. There's also the problem that plays are meant to be performed and watched, not read. Reading Romeo and Juliet or Ceaser, you totally lose the rythmn of the speech, which is a large part of what makes them so beautiful. I also think there should be more in the way of creative writing in school in ideal circumstances, though I got burned badly by a couple of teachers who tried to have some creative writing who attacked my stories for not being "realistic" enough. Still, I think more creative writing would help shed the idea that literature is a static body, which I think is a lot of the reason people think of reading as elitist.
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#38 Lord of the Sword

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 09:28 PM

As far as books go....some books are boring, that's just the way it goes. But what some find boring, others find entertaining. It's not the "books" that's the reason for people not reading.

A larger part, IMO, is the way teachers teach the novels. However, a larger part is the parents!

If a parent spends the time and reads to their child, when the child is young, more then likely that child will grow to like reading.
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#39 Nietrick

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 10:05 PM

I love books...but I read anything I can get my hands on. Newspaper,dictionary,phone book,magazines or comic books. I don't think the medium counts,as long as you read. And what about us MB visitors? We're reading....we read each other's thoughts and ideas. Just as vaild a form of learning and entertainment as any published book by a "real author".

As many have said,the classics are overrated. Hard to get through,old fashioned language,outdated social mores.  Not many can relate and especially not as teens. We're force fed these books,however,so many people think reading is always such a chore. A shame.
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#40 Corwin

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Posted 08 July 2004 - 10:14 PM

Nietrick, on Jul 8 2004, 09:03 PM, said:

As many have said,the classics are overrated. Hard to get through,old fashioned language,outdated social mores.  Not many can relate and especially not as teens. We're force fed these books,however,so many people think reading is always such a chore. A shame.
Personally, I enjoy a lot of the classics (Dickens and Cooperaside, as I have already mentioned.  Although A Tale of Two Cities was very nice, Cardie.  :)).  As far as hard to read and get through, I enjoy reading the more archaic prose on occasion, and very much enjoy my middle english copies of Beowulf and the Riverside Chaucer, and the Decameron of Baccaccio.  All 3 of those are slow reading... but very satisfying.


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