In a world without reading...
I can’t imagine a life without stories. I have been voraciously reading since I was a tiny child. My favorite excursion was going to the library in search of some wonderful places and characters to visit. As I’ve said before, I believe we need stories for many reasons. Yet, today, less than 20% of American’s read for pleasure, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While detailed historical statistics on reading habits are not available, one can reasonably assume that, given an almost 90% male literacy rate, the majority of the first American’s (back in 1776) regularly read for pleasure (and were read to). With so few people reading for pleasure what will happen to American literacy?
You might think that this disinterest in reading was confined to younger generations due to the overwhelming entertainment choices available. However, according to Pew Research, almost 30% of those over 50 hadn’t read a book in the previous year.
This disinterest in books isn’t due to the decline of printed books and bookstores. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales declined by about 4% in 2018. We just don’t read anymore.
These days, we can watch stories. Reading a story forces us to activate our visual and aural imagination, watching eliminates those need as it provides both the imagery and the sounds, effectively depriving our imaginations of valuable practice. I believe that helps stifle creativity in the minds of young and old alike.
Listening to a story being read may make reading a lot easier, but it still requires the initiation of imagination. The listeners must conjure up all of the visual aspects of the story and many of the sounds. As an added bonus, listening to short stories allows us to fill the spaces of our busy days with brilliant literature.
In a way listening to stories allows us to eat our cake and have it, as we can keep our creativity well-oiled and be entertained without the need to find the time and place needed to focus on reading a book or story entirely.