Thursday, 25 February 2010

On Books, and Reading

Earlier today Phiala posted a link to this story.

Although I have seen similar reports in the past, I still find it hard to comprehend the idea that reading 4-9 books a year would class as 'avid' and that 1 in 4 [American] people read no books at all. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar figures for reading / book buying habits here, too

The thing that got me, though, was the thought that 4 books per year is the average. A lot of us read a lot more than that, though, so presumably at the other end of that scale there are a great many people reading even fewer then that.

The article also mentions younger people not reading as much. I'm not certain whether that is true, but if it is, I can't help thinking that children who don't see their parents, or the other adults in their lives reading, are unlikely to see reading as a normal, pleasurable thing to do.

I used to babysit quite a lot when I was teenager, and I used to see a lot of houses where there were no books, except perhaps a box, or a single shelf with some books for the child, but no sign that any adult in the household ever read. I used to find it sad, and a little disturbing. I still do. It is seems to me unsurprising that many children brought up in those houses grow up to be adults who don't read.
Books are not particulalry expensive, particularly when compared with other kinds of entertainment such as DVDs, computer games etc. And if you can't afford to buy, you can borrow them, free of charge, from libraries. Growing up, buying a new book was a rare treat, usually happening only following Christmas or a Birthday when someone had given me book-tokens (always welcome) or money. But we went to the library on a very regular basis, and there were 2nd hand books from charity shops, church fetes and 2nd hand book shops, too.

I grew up in a house full of books. Books in every room, and an assumption that picking them up, looking at them, touching them, reading them, was perfectly normal. (We have a family joke, that a sociable family gathering consists of us all sitting in the same room, each immersed in a different book...)

I don't remember a time when my parents didn't read to me, and to my siblings. Reading a bedtime story was a constant, and we were read to at other times as well. I am sure this is how I learned to read (I don't ever remember not being able to). I'm also sure that this helped us not to lose interest, as being read to allows a child to enjoy stories which she might not yet be able to read independently. I remeber my younger brother choosing 'The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy' & Asimov's Robot books as bedtime reading when he was 6 & 7 (I believe that my parents may have very slightly edited as they went along, if only to avoid being asked to explain the significance of the triple-breated whore of eroticon 6..) As he is dyslexic and was a slow starter where reading was concerned, I suspect that without this he might well have turned into a non-reading adult. And think what he would have missed out on.
As a final thought, I decided to make a list of the books I've read in the past 7 days, and those I am currently reading...
In search of England -Michael Wood
Tall, Dark & Dead - Tate Hallaway
Frostbitten - Kelley ArmstrongBold
In the Garden of Iden - Kage Baker
City of Ships - Mary Hoffman
A Kind of Intimacy - Jenn Ashworth
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England - Ian Mortimer
Kitty & the Silver Bullet - Carrie Vaughn
Women in England 1500-1760 - Anne Laurence
Leonardo - The First Scientist - Michael White
Undead & Unwed - MaryJanice Davidson
Quite heavy on the urban fantasy this week, but not an unusual quantity or selction, for me. And so much enjoyment from so little outlay!


spacedlaw said...

I see we come from similar families...
I read less these days - too many things competing for my spare time - but it's still at least a book a week.

Jenn Ashworth said...

I love the pictures - reminds me of my house, where a sociable night in also involves us all with our faces stuck in a book...

Hope you enjoy A Kind of Intimacy :)

louisa said...

I particularly like the idea of not being able to remember a time when you couldn't read

Siri said...

I came home on my 1st day in first grade and sighed to my mother "A whole day there, and I don't know how to read yet." I was sorely disappointed in the educational system. In the evening, I'd go to talk to Ma, who would be in bed, reading, and she'd say "Just a minute, I've got a body." She loved a mystery. I can't imagine only reading 4 books a year - how on earth could you chose what to leave out?

Dragonsally said...

Our family is the same, and luckily all the following generations are bookworms too. When any of our family are together you will still find us reading together, swapping books and recommendations. Pete and I have lots of bookcases, and each one is overflowing with books. I can not imagine a house with no or few books.