Is Reading Still Popular?

Anybody remember the phrase ‘Reading is Fundamental’?  First, I didn’t realize it was a nonprofit child literacy organization founded in 1966.  Thought it was saying used in Public Service Announcements.  In fact, I used to think it was connected to this blast from the past:

I watched this show religiously as a child.  At least when I wasn’t reading.  I remember my school would do an MS Reading Contest and the winner got a free personal pizza from Pizza Hut.  Several times, I need to get an extra form because I ran out of slots to write down what I read.  Some days, I would have a pile of books and just read through them for the day.  We’re talking elementary age, so there were books like ‘Wayside School is Falling Down’, ‘Encyclopedia Brown’, “Incognito Mosquito’, Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, ‘Bunnicula’, and a ton of nonfiction stuff on animals and dinosaurs.  Many of my friends were into reading as well.  I got into bigger books, comics, and manga as I got older, but I was still reading away.  It seemed most people were doing this and you could find bookstores everywhere.

So . . . What happened?

Maybe it’s the circles I’m running in or that I’m not looking in the direction.  It feels like people simply aren’t reading as much as they used to.  Not just the dastardly millennials who I might be one of depending on the year cutoff that you’re using.  (I’m sticking with the ‘Oregon Trail’ Generation for my age bracket.  It’s true and I forgot the better one that I heard 2 years ago.)  Anyway, it seems people of all ages don’t want to touch a book.  They might if a TV series or movie has come out about it, but that’s not a guarantee.  I want to list all of the excuses that I’ve heard, but I’d be here all day.  It really boils down to people not reading as much as they used to, which makes being an author much more difficult and daunting.

I’m sure everyone has a theory for this.  One of mine is that people no longer have the attention span for books.  News and entertainment come at all of us so quickly that we’ve developed a communal ADD.  A book requires time and focus while a movie or TV show can be tossed on while you do something else.  There’s also less effort with watching a screen than reading a book.  Those pages are so hard to turn.  This isn’t all social media too.  Society in general has become so clogged and fast-paced that one thinks it’s a crime to relax.  You ever try to sit down and catch your breath only for a phone to ring, a text to come in, a chore to come up, or remembering you’re at work and on the clock?  Imagine getting reading time into that.  You can do it before you go to bed, but most people will pass out on the book.  We just don’t allow for an activity that requires time and effort these days.

Now, that is just a theory that isn’t flushed out.  There’s a gatekeeping issue that I’ve seen at times too.  You aren’t really into a genre if you haven’t read ‘this book’ or you shouldn’t be into ‘that series’.  Anyone who wants to get into reading or try a new genre could be turned off by these people.  I’m at the point where I’m happy somebody wants to give a book a chance even if it’s one I don’t like.  Heck, that means I can discuss the pros and cons of it with the other person.  Still, we live in a world where people are much easier to dissuade from things.  If anything, it really doesn’t help.

With any luck, I’m simply being pessimistic.  What does everyone else think about the state of reading in our society?  Perhaps it’s just an American issue and my friends in other countries can shed some happier news on this topic.  Please . . . Pretty please?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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56 Responses to Is Reading Still Popular?

  1. Our share of humans who read fiction may have gone down, but there are still plenty of them out there. Amazon publishes over a million titles per year. It isn’t unreasonable to think those people also read. I think overall, we’re reading less, I know I am, but we still read. It’s the kids I worry about. Of the three, only one manages a book every other year or so.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. L. Marie says:

    I remember “Reading is Fundamental.” And yes, I have noticed that some people aren’t reading books as much. Instead, they’re on social media reading posts by other people. But I also know people who still voraciously read. They also encourage their kids to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Speaking for myself, In the past few weeks, I’ve drastically reduced the amount of time spent on the internet and deleted my Flipboard App, because I was getting too bogged down with news and distractions. Then I started going through my TBR books on Kindle.
    I have to admit I had to start off reading only short books or anthologies, and work my way through to proper novel sized books, because my attention span was very short, resulting in speed reading instead of relaxing while reading.
    I’m now relaxing more and whittling down the TBR backlog at a reasonable pace.
    Another thing I’ve done was to periodically delete books I’d read, except for particular authors whose books I particularly enjoy and would like to dive into again from time to time, so have put them into Collections files in my Kindle App (including yours, although I’m still adding to the Charles Yallowitz Collection)

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I have to agree about people not reading as much. The folks we interact with all red but get outside that circle and not so much. Games, Netflix, and social media take up the spare time.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I am not sure that all walks of people have ever read, Charles. If I look at history, reading was always something enjoyed by the upper and middle classes. People who were more learned and academic. The majority of people have never read. My boys both read and so do my husband and I. It is a family thing. I remember when I wanted to read Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree at Sunday School once, every child had had it read to them before. There are still people who read.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Netflix killed the book? Could be, but I don’t know… It may be my circle but I’m surrounded by readers. Or it may be that I don’t live in the States. Although Greece is hardly famous for its many book readers (quite the opposite, in fact).

    Personally, though, I have been reading a lot less since the wee one’s arrival. She’s been a black hole for my free time, leaving me exhausted at the end of the day. I hope that someday I’ll be able to get back to reading at full speed again!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Rae Reads says:

    Definitely worth sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m so blessed that both hubby and I read. It’s amazing (and sad) how any people just don’t read anymore. Hubby’s brother wouldn’t go anywhere near a book. I couldn’t live without them … I’d be one of the dissidents in Farenheight, lol! Thanks, Charles, for a thought-provoking post. Reblogged on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/is-reading-still-popular/

    Liked by 2 people

  9. For sure fewer people read in the west, maybe more so in the developing world but then they cannot afford to buy many books so will grab free ones on their phones. We are in competition with social media, (dozens of platforms), celebrity worship, sport fanaticism, Netflix and online games. It’s a shame. We learn so much from reading.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I know a ton of people who say they “read”, but generally when i see them “reading” they’re just scrolling on their phones or tablets, taking a quick scan of what’s going on or a tweet and moving along. I don’t see reading in depth, and i know they’re not reading in depth because even speed readers don’t go as fast and then jerk to a stop for 10 seconds, then keep going.

    I’d argue reading in depth is what’s gotten lost. At most I’ve seen blog posts get read or a short magazine article. Once in a while someone’s analog like me and brings an actual paper book to read. That’s awesome when I see it. Frankly, staring at screens too long hurts my eyes. Dunno how so many people do it all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I disagree with your premise. People still want to read, and they do read.

    Technology may have changed, allowing e-books to exist. People read those.

    Big box chains may have made financial miscalculations that put them out of business. People still can get books, and they do.

    Individual houses may run out of shelf space. People will check out books from the library, and then return them.

    The End of the Book has been predicted for 20 years. People still read. If they want to do it, they will find a way.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jennie says:

    I definitely remember Reading Rainbow and RIF. Libraries are booming, even Little Free Libraries are everywhere. Mom and Pop book stores aren’t closing doors, just the opposite. So, I have to think reading is still popular. I hope!

    Like

  13. V.M.Sang says:

    I live in the UK. None of my three grandchildren read. my granddaughter is on her phone all the while. She’s thirteen and in constant contact with her friends. My fifteen year old grandson spends his free time either out on his bike seeing his friends, or playing various online games with them. The eldest, twenty five, is heavily into music and when not at work is going to gigs and/or festivals. No reading being done.
    My son does not read, except when necessary. He plays games on his computer and he recently bought a boat and has been reading books about boats and boating, but my daughter is, like me, and avid reader. My husband only reads non-fiction, and that, not very often. He enjoys biography. He used to read a lot in his youth, though, but now I think he’s too busy. He’s always finding jobs to do. He’s a man who likes to be busy all the time.
    My friends read, though. Most of them have large collections of books and read a lot.
    Looking at this, it seems it’s a generation thing, but none of it is saying most of the people I know are spending a lot of time watching the TV. Playing games, yes, but watching TV not so much.

    Like

    • At least the oldest seems to be away from a machine. Definitely sounds like a generation thing. I wonder if being forced to read in school is a factor too. Not being able to choose your books can be frustrating.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Seven Links 8/17/19 Traci Kenworth – Where Genres Collide Traci Kenworth YA Author & Book Blogger

  15. Tournesol says:

    I read still and when I started blogging (2013) and writing hours a day , I was not reading as much (several novels a week). Then I would panic on the bus home if I only had a chapter left in my book!!! So I started bringing two books which were heavy for me esp with my chronic joint and back pain. And that’s when I started ereading [hey, I just made up a word!]. I found that I could carry hundreds of books with no weight.

    I have a Kindle and Kobo but they don’t light up and sometimes the bus has bad lighting. So I would continue reading my book on my phone (that’s why I purchased a big one).

    My kids don’t read novels and I tried with my grandson because he kept seeing me read every free time I had (waiting in line somewhere, waiting at doctors etc). When he was 7 he moved and I saw him less often. His parents don’t read much.
    I find the nurture (modelling) aspect helps. My parents read a lot.

    I do prefer paper read but it IS heavy for traveling, so, I keep those for home.

    Wow I talk a lot!! sheeesh!

    So, many folks may actually be reading novels on their phones too but I doubt many do these days.

    I realize I need to balance it out though as I can read one book in one sitting and neglect writing. Ya gotta read to improve your writing too. And I’m ADD and read soooo slowly too but I love the escape and getting into the private movie in my brain

    Hope you are feeling a bit better now, Charles.

    Like

    • Sounds generational like I thought. Fewer youngsters are reading from what people are saying. Authors and readers seem to be in high reading circles too. So, our perspectives are all over the place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tournesol says:

        For sure. I visited my cousin last week and she and her husband and elderly mom are avid readers which makes sense that their 18 yr old son reads…I love discussing books with him I try to read some young adult reader books to relate better with youths who call us on our crisis lines. But you’re right…it is difficult to get a true picture but libraries in the summer seem pretty darn busy here 🙂 There is hope!

        Like

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