The recently released NEA report “To Read or Not to Read” has generated quite a lot of commentary about the present extent and nature of reading. A recent article in the New Yorker by Caleb Crain, “Twilight of the Books,” reviews a number of interesting studies on orality and literacy to explore the question “What will life be like if people stop reading?”
The question many respondents to the NEA study are asking has to do with the impact of the internet on reading. Crain refers to one related study in his article:
The Internet, happily, does not so far seem to be antagonistic to literacy. Researchers recently gave
children and teen-agers home computers in exchange for permission to monitor their Internet use. The study found that grades and reading scores rose with the amount of time spent online. Even visits to pornography Web sites improved academic performance. Of course, such synergies may disappear if the Internet continues its YouTube-fuelled evolution away from print and toward television. Michigan
The future of books is another question.
Link to “Twilight of the Books” http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2007/12/24/071224crat_atlarge_crain/
Link to “To Read or Not to Read”: http://www.nea.gov/research/ToRead.pdf
Maryanne Wolf responds to “Twilight of the Books” in the January 28, 2008, issue of the New Yorker:
The addictive immediacy and overwhelming volume of information available in the “Goggled world” of novie readers invite neither time for concentrated analysis and inference nor the motivation for them to think beyond all the information given. Despite its extraordinary contributions, the digital world may be the greatest threat yet to the endangered reading brain as it has developed over the past five thousands years.