Friday, August 21, 2015

Where Is The Art Of Reading Going?

In this business, we are always looking for "a reason" as to why the market does what it does. Why do sales go down? Why do they go up? What about trends? Unfortunately, as we have talked about here in the past, we really cannot predict these. This is really a business of guessing and hoping you are right. This is actually one of those areas where I get frustrated with authors who seem to think, "the publishers should have seen this coming." Not always.

But, there are things we can see going on outside of the publishing industry that might account for shifts in sales.

Take, for example, advertisements for those tablets from any of the marketers out there. What do they hype up? The fact that you can stream movies, watch your favorite TV shows, catch up on social media, and oh by the way, you can read a book. In other words, we have placed that at such a lower level on the marketing scale, it is no wonder why the readers are simply not out there.

Consider social media. We are making every effort to get "just what you need" and get it to you fast. You can follow Twitter and click on basic links just to get the news. Ta Da! No more reading newspapers.

But now we can see what is happening in the K-12 system. Sure, they do continue to teach reading and have kids read outside of class. The book reports are still there, but there is a lot more "control" over what the students have to read. We have programs such as Accelerated Reader which have the kids read from books "only" on their list and have to take tests on these. Yes, these are an advancement from those older SRA programs where we read from cards out of a box and answered questions, but, there are still limitations. I don't care how excited a kid might be about a book, the student can't read it for credit if there is no test for it.

And now we have the Common Core. Let me first say, I am not against the Common Core. I do believe we need Outcome Based Objectives for what we do in school, but the emphasis is now on "informational texts" according to Kathryn VanArendonk, who teaches developmental reading and writing at Union County College (from an interview on summer reading on NPR on Aug. 20th). The days of reading fiction are slipping away as we make reading "practical".

Sure, the kids are reading and this is a good thing. But the days of reading for escape. Reading to really get into characters and plots seem to be pushed aside right now for the idea of "reading a book only for a specific purpose."

Maybe what we need to do is to get back to reading just because a book sounds good. But this effort has to start with the adults out there. Get those kids to the library. Get them to book stores and let them find something that "just looks good." And while they are out there getting a book, make sure to pick up a book or two for yourself.

And then, when you are at home, instead of firing up the TV to binge watch the latest episode of Zombies in Amish Land, pick up the book and read. You might be surprised. You might enjoy that book and get hooked again.

1 comment:

  1. So sad, but true. I used to teach Reading at the college level and the first thing I asked my college students was to tell me the name of the last book they read for pleasure. Most of them couldn't think of a book they'd ever read because they wanted to. Some of them had been out of school for over 20 years and hadn't read since high school. Made me very sad. :(