Look around you. Look at what the people around you are doing on all of their digital devices. Maybe even look to your own habits. What you should find is the biggest reason that we are seeing a loss of a strong reading population. We are simply not promoting reading the way we used to.
I have talked about this in the past, here on this blog. When E-Book readers first came out, we all thought this would be the best thing we could do for reading. Making reading portable and easy to access. With a simple click of the button, you now had a book without even having to leave your house. And yet, sales just were not there. What increased their sales was a promotion of all the things you can now use those E-Book readers and tablets for. Just listen to the commercials "Now you can stream all of your favorite television shows and movies!" What happened to the reading?
Go into the schools and you will see just what we are talking about. In an book by Kelly Gallagher entitled, READICIDE, the author notes some interesting facts and observations. Because of programs such as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools were now focused on doing everything they could to increase test scores. The result was that we were able to increase test scores, but not teaching students to read or enjoy reading.
What is worse is that many programs, such as SPRINGBOARD produced by College Board, have students "reading Shakespeare" when in reality, they are only looking at small pieces of the works of Shakespeare. Reading the whole play is a thing of the past.
We are now seeing many teachers turning to video versions of the novels, or even books that read to the students. Essentially, were "dumbing" down the curriculum to ensure that students are seeing higher grades and successes. The writers of these programs are "hoping" that students will find an excitement in that small excerpt and go out on their own and read. Unfortunately, this is not happening.
Even the level of reading material we are giving to students has declined. This should not come to you as a shock when you consider that many newspapers are only at a 10th grade reading level and high school textbooks are often 4-5 grade levels below the grade the book is being used for. Academics claim they do this to allow for an increased comprehension for the students who do not have any prior knowledge. This might be true, but ask yourself what that prior knowledge is not there? The earlier grades did not promote that reading!
The decline can also be seen in the household. We don't read newspapers anymore because we can get those excerpts sent to us on our social media. Read a fragment and call it quits. Parents are also just telling their kids to go in and "do their homework" or "go do your reading" but not modeling that behavior.
So, how do we improve literacy in America (and even around the world)? The answer is simple. Start reading. Not graphic novels. Not those shortened "illustrated classics" and not audio books because it is easier to listen to it on our commute on the bus or train. Read a dang book! Get those kids reading.
Teachers and schools can also help. Get books into those kids hands. Stop teaching "testing strategies" and star promoting reading. We might be shocked what results we finally see!