The Reading Public

Two Young Women Friends Reading Books


by Raymond M. Coulombe

A recent survey showed that only 30% of US adults ever read books. That figure shocked me. I found it unbelievably low. The vast majority of people around me are avid readers. Then someone pointed out how I’ve chosen to be around readers. I suppose that’s just a side effect of wanting to be around interesting people. People who spend all their time watching TV aren’t very good conversationalists.

I’m not snobby about reading material either. If you get pleasure from reading Romances, more power to you. At least you are reading and using your imagination. I don’t read a lot of Westerns, but I’ll happily listen to someone talk about a great Cowboy Opera he’s reading. It’s all good as far as I’m concerned.

So why do so few people read books as adults? I’ve some ideas on the possible reasons. One big one is the way reading is taught in school. Too often required reading isn’t anything the students are interested in. Now I get that there are books that are important, even if they are a difficult read. However, a steady diet of books that are a chore doesn’t inspire a love of reading. First you get them addicted to reading. Then you slip in the “important” books.

When I was a kid in school, once in a while, probably by accident, they would assign a book I actually liked. Then they would take all the joy out of it with classroom exercises and book reports. If I hadn’t discovered Science Fiction, I’d probably have grown up as one of those adults who didn’t read books.

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