Friday, August 6, 2010

Abysmal Reading Statistics

Two years ago I blogged about how one in four Americans doesn't read even one book in a whole year. That statistic shocked me. Well, there are worse statistics available. Way, way worse. I read about them on Don Miller's blog and they are from Para Publishing. If you want to follow up on any of these or read other statistics about books, publishing, or reading, there is a great deal of information there.

Here are some of the statistics reported by Don Miller

1/3 of high school graduates never read a book for the rest of their lives

42% of college graduates never read a book for the rest of their lives

70% of U.S. adults have not stopped into a bookstore in the last five years

80% of American families did not purchase or read a book in the last year

These statistics are alarming to me. I cannot imagine how the non-readers and non-reading families are functioning without reading, without thinking about what they've read, without talking about books and ideas, without learning in depth about many different new ideas, without getting involved in stories that aren't fed to them as they are in movies, and without being exposed to experiences outside of their own. How do they do it? How do they process their lives? How do they grow? This is something I simply don't understand. 

I love movies and television, but they are no substitute for reading. I just don't understand this. 

Well, in perusing the data from Para Publishing, I notice that there are a wide variety of statistics there with results varying wildly. So these may not be totally accurate. Still, none of the statistics are good or indicate that we here in America are readers. Very sad. 

LoveHubbie only reads a few books a year. I've noticed that he has lost his ability to "enter into" a book to the point where the world fades away and he is "in" the story--unless it is a very highly interesting book to him. Also, his reading speed is way, way down, making reading more of a chore. He is often so tired from working that it is just too hard to read. Usually all this begins to change when we take a long vacation. I see his non-reading as work-induced and as temporary--he could change this in the future when he retires or when he cuts back on his work schedule or when pigs fly. 

If any of you are non-book readers, I'd love to know more about why you don't enjoy books. Also, if you've ever known anyone who doesn't read, I'd love to hear about it. 

~Photo from


Kim Mailhot said...

Love books too much to believe those statistics ! They seem very, very high. I hope they are.
Off to read a chapter ro two before bed..
Night, Lovely Olivia !

Olivia said...


I know JUST what you mean. I will be doing the same :)

Much Big Love to you, Sweet Kim

Anonymous said...

Wow. I can't imagine. I think if I had to go even one month without a book I'd go a little crazy.

Though I do understand your husband's temporary non-reading phase. I didn't read alot when I had small kids or in the periods of my life I've been too overwhelmed with work.

patti said...

Scary stats if they are accurate!

My children both read, though not nearly as much as my hub and I do (or did at their age) My 16 yr old son is reading his way through Lord of the Rings for the first time. He is a steady reader and I am proud of him for attempting it.

I went through a period after some illness once where I just couldn't get into books, then one day it passed and I was back to reading again. Funny! I guess when we are fatigued it is difficult to concentrate.

Olivia said...

Heather, I know I'd do the same. Crazy after a month. My mind would be starving! And I know that LoveHubbie is not just tired, but DOG tired, like with little kids as you mentioned!

Patti, I'm glad your children enjoy some reading. I agree, fatigue makes it so hard.

Thank you both for commenting, ladies. I was so incensed when I read this, and I appreciate your reflections. xoO

Rick Hamrick said...

One phenomenon which is not mentioned: the internet.

I won't even attempt to sell you on the idea that it has taken an honored place in the pantheon of higher thought or deep involvement.

What it has done, apart from offer mindless entertainment, is provide a means by which people can share their thoughts with others.

Sometimes mundane, sometimes very inspiring, bloggers and others who write for the love of it are granted the chance to find their own readership...and they do!

So, let's bemoan the loss of some influence when it comes to the printed word, but let's not do so without proper credit given to the new paradigm, the means by which anyone with the audacity to believe they have something to say (hello, Happy Luau!) now can say it with the entire planet's population as potential readers.

Olivia said...

Hi, Rick,

I agree with you that the Internet is amazing, and allows interaction on many levels, including deep levels, and changes life in so many ways. It connects people. I probably love the internet more than movies or television.

However, it is not a book! So different are they.

I was thinking about your comment and wondering if I had to give up one thing first, it would probably be movies, then television, next internet, and lastly, books. Books are intrinsic to me as part of a relationship with myself, and without that I have much less to give out of when I go online...only the shallow unformed stuff is left. I just cannot envision life without books...

Thank you, as always, for commenting, Rick. Perhaps a discussion will start about this? I hope so.

Love and blessings,


Rick Hamrick said...

O, we don't have to give up books. What we have little choice about, though, is to face the fact that future generations may well find other methods and tools for the same kind of self-discovery you have learned to experience with books.

My greatest pleasure is to see my daughters coming to know who they are and what their passions are. One is a big reader, the other three not as much. Three are big into their own education--two have finished college with honors and the third will be an honor grad in 2012--and the youngest, not so much.

Even the youngest, the one who graduated from high school by the barest of margins, is growing and learning every day. College just isn't part of her short-term plans, that's all.

I'm with you: not only am I going to read books, I'm going to continue to resist electronic readers. It's perfectly alright that you love yours! Not for me, though.

Kate said...


I too hope these are not true. I have finished 2 books in the last 2 days and am close to doing a third. Granted i can not do much more right now. Both Dave and I read as does our daughter. I always give books as gifts to foster reading in others. I notice libraries were not in these stats, I wonder how they fit in. I find I am even reading more since I got a kindle.


Olivia said...


There might be somewhere that I read this or perhaps it's just wishful thinking, but I do believe that reading blogs and newspaper articles and the Internet is different from books as far as how it affects the gray matter in the brain. If someone knows this, please let me know.

I do know this, that several years ago I had a brain scan done and my gray matter was the same as an 18 years old's--the radiologist said that it had to be reading books that prevented the normal deterioration, which should have been at least 15% by then.

Of course, my body is probably much older than my age, so maybe it evens out!

I don't know, but I'd welcome input on this!


Olivia said...

Hi, Kate,

YAY, you're feeling well enough to COMMENT!! You have read more in your recovery from surgery than almost everyone reads in a year! I am sure that part of what has made Sarah such a good writer is growing up in a reading environment.

I too read way more with the Kindle. I like switching back and forth. Hardcopy- Kindle. There are different things to enjoy about both. Now I read almost exclusively free books on the Kindle, then go on to buy hardcopies from authors that I enjoy!

Heal well, xoO

CrystalChick said...

I go to a local bookstore quite often and it always seems crowded with a range of people so those stats are higher than I would have guessed.

I read more than those in my immediate family. My daughter and son both had to read for school obviously and I did see to it that the summer reading projects they were given got done but neither of them have ever really seemed to enjoy reading for pleasure. They both like magazines or maybe short stories but chapter books haven't been of great interest. They've seen me reading many books over the years and they've gone with me on trips to the bookstores and our home is full of books but they just aren't into it like I am.
My husband reads in the bathroom. LOL But that's sometimes the only quiet time he gets so he keeps a little stack of what he's reading on the window ledge in there.
While he liked the whole Harry Potter series, read and re-read them all, he's usually more into shorter books. He has a couple by Kahlil Gibran in there now, one on the Rosary, and the Bible. And interestingly, my man is not religious at all.

I know both people who read alot and those who never do. The ones who don't just seem to be busy with other things. One girlfriend who I can't ever remember seeing a book or even a magazine in her house has a passion for gardening and that's really all she wants to do with her spare time.

Do you have a favorite book?

Olivia said...

Mary, that's very interesting about your family. That's really something about your husband too--maybe he is spiritual but not religious?

I wonder what makes someone a reader and someone not. I wonder if it has something to do with their brain or if it is the environment or both or neither?

Yes, I have a favorite book, by far. It is "Pilgrim At Tinker's Creek" by Annie Dillard. It is an absolutely amazing book and has been my favorite for many years.

What is your favorite book?


CrystalChick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CrystalChick said...

I googled your favorite and it looks like something my husband might really like. I'm going to make a note of it for next time I'm in Barnes and Noble. :)

One that became a favorite of mine would not suit everyone but held me for all 933 pages. It's called 'Shantaram', written by Gregory David Roberts.
The opening paragraph ...
'It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it's all you've got, that hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.'

The novel is a work of fiction, however, he drew on many of his own experiences to write it.
Maybe because it's set mainly in India that I was so drawn in?
Years ago, Johnny Depp bought the rights to it and was to make a movie with himself as the main character but I haven't heard anything on that in some time.

I read recently there will be a sequel book coming out next year.

Another fav of mine is a children's book... 'The Phantom Tollbooth' and every now and then I pick it up and read a chapter or two. Just a cute little book about a boy who is bored then and goes off on an adventure but it always stuck with me.

Olivia said...

Mary, You won't believe it but I actually have Shantaram, I just haven't read it yet. I keep waiting for a long vacation or something like that. I love long books and want to be able to sit down and read them for a few hours daily when I'm reading them. I really like that opening line.

I've never read the Phantom Tollbooth, but I have heard of it. I like reading YA fiction sometimes, but haven't read children's books in years. It sounds like it must be nice.

Thanks for sharing your reading, xoO

Anonymous said...

My own mother doesn't read much. I think she reads an average of one book a year but only when a friend shoves it under her nose. She doesn't buy them or go to the library. She has a master's degree in education, so it's not as if she can't read or is dumb. She tells me that when she sits down to read, she feels guilty because there are more productive ways she "should" be using the time. Of course she paints a lot, so maybe that is where the reading time goes. My brother and I both enjoy reading. I usually have two non-fiction books on the go at any given time, sometimes as many as five. I also read a weekly news magazine and the Shambhala Sun monthly. I take fiction on holidays.

Anonymous said...

I shouldn't really speak for Sylvain, but he's become much more of a reader since I introduced him to John Irving. It's lovely that we can now sit in a park and read our books together.

Olivia said...

How interesting, Kelly. I would have thought your mother had pushed-pushed reading...and I'm so glad that Sylvain and you can read together. A major fun activity! Blessings and love, O