Friday, August 23, 2019

Families Are To Blame For Literacy Problems And Publishing Woes

Authors all around the world pretty much agree on one thing. Making money in the publishing world is not easy. Sales of books are not where they want them to be. Publishers are being very selective about signing new authors. Competition is fierce for those few coveted places in the market.

I was talking to a bookstore owner and friend of mine last weekend and she was noting that, while sales were fine, it is tougher and tougher to get those sales higher. It isn't the location or the size of the store, or the way she is marketing the books. It is simply the number of people buying books.

Now we add in the problems with literacy and test scores of students in the U.S. Those numbers are simply not where those in education want the numbers to be. Districts may proclaim graduation rates in the 85% and higher range (roughly the national average) but they leave off another key statistics. a couple of years ago, the ACT put out a statistic noting that only 42% of high school graduates were college ready.

Add in that districts, in a move to make financial cuts to save budgets are cutting the coveted librarian position. The district my kids attended had librarians covering 3 schools. Another district in our area cut all librarians and just had teachers in charge of checking books out. But that was OK because many of the teachers were simply not using libraries.

Teachers now use movies or have texts reading to the students. Their argument is that it saves time and the students would rather hear the book than read it.

And then we wonder why we have all of these problems?

It is really easy for people to blame a lot of other people or institutions in this whole web. Schools are not doing the right thing. Teachers are not teaching properly. Publishers are not marketing properly. Book sellers are not paying the authors properly. Bookstores are using stupid marketing plans. The list is endless. But if you will notice there is one factor that is being ignored. The parents and family element.

I remember as a kid living in Reseda, California, my mother, once a week, walking all of us to the library. We would get our stack of books for the week (no not just one) and off we would go. Along with our regular activities (I played football, baseball and participated in Scouts), and homework, we also read. Taking car trips involved bringing books with us. Please note, when I said "US" I meant everyone in the family. We all read.

But what do we see today?

Digital devices and phones are hyped up for "amazing streaming capabilities". Netflix, Hulu and all of the TV channels proclaim their great deals so you can binge watch your favorite shows.

Consider the newspaper industry. These collapsed because people "didn't want to read" They would rather get their information on social media (and we see how well that worked out).

Parents complain that schools give "too much homework" because their kids have all of these activities.

Parents tell their kids to "get in their and read their homework." But what are the parents doing? They're on their phones. They are playing video games and then yelling that their kids play too much.

My wife is a college professor and she told me a couple of years ago that this one mother openly admitted that her son, who was failing classes, spends his afternoons and all summer playing video games. He did this because, according to her, the teachers made school and learning boring. And yet, she promoted the same behavior.

Even our President would rather get short briefings and get his information on the TV than read the material.

I have talked about this once before, but if we want to improve sales figures and if we want to improve test scores, college readiness and literacy issues, we have to promote reading. Parents need to turn off the TV and read. Parents need to get kids to the bookstores and buy books. If money is tough, go to the libraries. EVERYONE needs to read.

Of course, I know I am probably preaching to the choir. Those of you reading this probably do read. But it is simply not enough. It has to be pushed on those people around us that are convinced reading is not important.

1 comment:

  1. How do you think self-published works have factored into this new literary existence? I'm also sort of unsure who buys (or: can buy) new books when they can cost $24.95 a pop in contrast to a tsundoku (we all have them) constituted of either readily-found used copies (for a penny sometimes) or the brand-newer things even as easily found at the libraries the public tends to use either for exclusively school or Surrogate Blockblusters. Those are the things I've been wondering about. Even if more people read books they have more ways of getting them and it almost seems like the direct "donation" (multi-"patron") system will usurp anything more traditional. Thereby to try eschewing the internet (which is part of the problem if not THE problem) could become less and less doable, right?

    Also to see that the ACT feels less than half of the grads are university-ready.... Not good. Especially since colleges had already devolved a decade ago to compensate. But it would show from what I've seen of the young adults of today. Thanks for the post.