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Finally, some criticism of the NEA studies on reading

Posted by: on Nov 29, 2007 | No Comments

It’s buried in a WSJ op-ed on reading and the Kindle, but there it is:

One criticism of the NEA studies is that they don’t capture the “new” ways people read away from work. This means the Endowment doesn’t validate new pastimes, such as reading text messages on cell-phone screens. Add the input-output of text messaging to the data base of readers and the daily voluntary reading time likely rises from seven minutes to six or seven hours.

Is this literacy? In 50 years, no one may ask.

They shouldn’t ask now. Obviously it’s literacy. And perhaps a more engaged one than the one-way literacy for which the NEA pines. Take a look at this beacon of hope from the same op-ed:

A recent phenomenon on the streets of New York is people walking, amid crowds, their nose in a book. One sees it all the time. The subways are full of people reading books. On just one subway car this Tuesday one saw: “Tales from Da Hood” by Nikki Turner, “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Don’t Know Much About History” by Kenneth Davis. Small book clubs abound, as do book Web sites. There are small presses dedicated to writers “no one” is aware of beyond several thousand loyal acolytes. But they are reading.

Yes, think of all those people occupying the same space and ignoring one another. A very small percentage then occasionally gather in book clubs (which are getting harder to find due to market fragmentation) to discuss the book.

Now think of someone spending “six or seven hours” per day in literate practices that make sense to them, that involve producing as well as consuming text, and that connect them viscerally with others’ lives in real time. Texting, blogging, social networking. And that’s in addition to the eight hours of highly text-oriented work they conduct in their offices in front of their computer screens — let’s say about 12 hours a day reading and writing. Still worried about literacy? And if so, perhaps you can more clearly define the subset of literacy about which you are worried?

OpinionJournal – Wonder Land

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