Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Reading Crisis In America

In Marcia Clemmitt’s article “Reading Crisis? Do Today’s Youth Read Less than Past Generations?” the author explores the topic of literacy and if there is currently a reading crisis in our country.  The authors cites a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) survey which revealed that all Americans are reading less than in the past (Clemmitt 2008).  For example, from 1982 to 2002, the percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds who stated they read novels outside of school dropped from 60 percent to 43 percent (Clemmitt 2008).  As stated by Sunil Iyengar in the article, “Reading is currently not promoted as much in the mainstream culture.”

There is currently a noticed trend of a decline in reading among the younger generations.  In fact, there is less reading among younger generations, while their time using electronic media increases (Clemmitt 2008).  The average amount of time students spend reading is declining, as is their likelihood of utilizing public library services.  Research has noticed a decline in the habit of regular reading and in the reading ability of students.  There is a growing gap between high-achieving readers and low-achieving readers.  All of this data add up to contribute to a growing reading crisis amongst today’s youth.

However, some researchers argue that there is not a reading or literacy crisis.  They argue instead that our definition of understanding of literacy is changing.  Currently, society is shifting towards an online literacy, where blogs, emails, and websites are the basic locations for reading and writing.  While it is important for students to develop important technological skills, it should be considered: Is this online literacy detrimental to traditional literacy?  Research has shown that reading online is not as effective at developing key reading skills as reading novels or other print sources.  Students spend less time reflecting on what is read when they read online and often only skim the articles.  This is negatively impacting comprehension and vocabulary acquisition.

While our education system is currently placing a large amount of importance on literacy and reading, our society appears to be placing less emphasis on reading outside of the classroom.  This is negatively impacting the literacy of our students and educators need to find a way to encourage the reading of books and discourage over-usage of online or electronic media.

2. Clemmitt, M. (2008).  Reading crisis? Do today’s youth read less than past generations?  In CQ Researcher, Issues in K-12 education (pp. 281-304).  Washington, DC: CQ Press.

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