6. Reading

book-2325624_640The United States is pretty far down on the list when it comes to reading. The US is ranked at twenty-third, the United States reads half that of India, with an average of five hours and forty-two minutes of reading per week per person.

Number of hours per week spent on reading: 1. India – 10 hours, 42 minutes 2. Thailand – 9:24 3. China – 8:00 4. Philippines – 7:36 5. Egypt – 7:30 6. Czech Republic – 7:24 7. Russia – 7:06 8. Sweden – 6:54 8. France – 6:54 10. Hungary – 6:48 10. Saudi Arabia – 6:48 12. Hong Kong – 6:42 13. Poland – 6:30 14. Venezuela – 6:24 15. South Africa – 6:18 15. Australia – 6:18 17. Indonesia – 6:00 18. Argentina – 5:54 18. Turkey – 5:54 20. Spain – 5:48 20. Canada – 5:48 22. Germany – 5:42 22. USA – 5:42 24. Italy – 5:36 25. Mexico – 5:30 26. U.K. – 5:18 27. Brazil – 5:12 28. Taiwan – 5:00 29. Japan – 4:06 30. Korea – 3:06

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). Reading is a means of language acquisition, communication, and of sharing information and ideas as defined by Wikipedia. Reading allows readers an escape to produce their own views introspectively. More simply stated, as I see it, reading is typically an individual activity. It helps people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence. Reading has been to me a source of available information where I could form my own conclusions based upon the text which I was fortunate enough to read. My conclusions, although very personal could then be based upon logic as well as well-founded information. It allows the reader, me, to be more open-minded, not always being prejudiced of views and therefore being more assessable to various sides of interesting issues.

Therefore, I have for some time attempted to search out reading material different than my personal opinions. Many years ago while working in New York City I found a park in Greenwich Village, Union Square, which I found most interesting and fun to visit. You could walk into the park and find individuals standing on park benches voicing their opinions. I was fascinated by an individual that drew crowds around him on a daily basis. This individual was a well read card-carrying communist. He said he was. What I noticed almost immediately was that he was well-versed in his communist based agenda. He was a real pro as he was able to sway the views of many in the crowd that gathered around him. It appeared to me that most in this crowd of listeners knew very little concerning communism. He was able to twist the minds of many uninformed individuals. At that time I decided to start a personal reading project of my own. For the next several months I read whatever I could find concerning communism, which included Karl Marx, Hegel, Engel, Das Kapital, the Communist Manifesto as well as other communist writings. When I felt I was ready I went back to the park and was able to speak to this individual and the crowd that always gathered around him. You might say that I was loaded for bear. The Russian communist bear. Where this very interesting and informative card carrying communists spokesman was able to twist the minds of the uninformed so easily I found it quite easy to debate with him on a factual basis. For me communism was not a label which was shouted back by the uninformed it was a philosophy which was not in a real sense a workable strategy of the government.

At a later time I became interested in a growing culture of anti-Semitism. What I did at that time was to read Henry Ford’s extremely anti-Jewish book “The International Jew.” I wanted to understand the mindset of such individuals such as Ford and felt that the only way to do this was to read his writings which I might add were quite popular during the early part of the 20th century.
Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nineteen percent in 1984 to nine percent in 2004. These frightening facts concerning the reading habits of the youth of America can be shown by the following statistics:
Almost 85 percent of teenagers in the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate. Seven out of 10 adult prisoners can’t read above a fourth grade level. Dropouts make up 90 percent of Americans on welfare and 75 percent of food stamp recipients.

After I retired, I was fortunate enough to teach within the Indianapolis, Indiana high schools as well as middle schools. What I found was that these young individuals that I taught and spoke with on a daily basis were just as bright as those who at a time where reading was much more prevalent were not lacking in intellectual capabilities yet they were not interested in picking up a book and reading other than what they had to read put forth by academia. It is my belief that this lack of reading has caused our nation to become a more polarized nation easily swayed by those who they believe to be well-versed and informed such as their parents, religious leaders, politicians, talking heads and many more respected individuals. This is not to say that all who are mentioned here are always wrong with the information passed on to these very easily led youth who do respect those speaking with them. My point here is that these young individuals by reading would be much abler to form their own opinions causing them as adults to make better decisions and I believe live happier and more productive lives.

When one reads one does exercise the mind. Reading allows all to reach beyond his/her surroundings all is within the reach of the reader. It is a fact of history that dictators censor or ban books. It’s why it was illegal to teach slaves to read. It’s why girls in developing countries have acid thrown in their faces when they walk to school so writes Karlin Slaughter an American crime writer. Ray Bradbury an American fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction author wrote: ” There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

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One thought on “6. Reading

  1. I dont know where these stats come from. Perhaps we need to define what is meant by reading. Egypt is 40 per cent illiterate, and there is virtually no market for fiction. Religious texts, yes. I dont know about text books, but the AUC /Publishing House is not a powerhouse. compared to many of the larger global players. France on the other has a vibrant reading public, yet trails at number 8. This hardly seems credible, putting at risk your argument. In the US, does reading smartphone content countt? What about regular comps? Or kindles? Does technical material count? I think we need more info but accepting the argument.

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