I turned on my car this morning just in time to hear WZID's Nancy Robbins give a report on how Americans don't read as much as they used to. I apologize for not having the name of the study she quoted, as there was no pen and paper handy, but the gist of the story was that people are reading less and literacy levels, even among college graduates, are falling.
Now some people might think this is a reason to cut back on library services, since a lot of what we do has to do with reading, but I think just the opposite is true. I think this is really a challenge to us to find more ways to make library services relevant and create bridges that will lead people back to the written word. What does this say about our country that our reading skills and habits are failing? How many successful people and endeavors would flourish for very long if we couldn't understand the written word? Now is the time for more literacy promotion, not less.
The up side of the same report was very encouraging--reading is increasing among the teenage population. This has a lot to do with the fact that publishing for the teen market is a growing trend, with many teens enjoying manga (Japanese graphic novels) as well as fiction especially targeted to the things that concern teens--romantic relationships, peer pressure and other challenges of the middle and high school years. Each month, our Young Adult Librarian, Alex Estabrook, adds a number of new titles to the YA collection, and they promptly go home with our reading teens. The day after school dismissed in June, our Young Adult display area was stripped! Yes! Let's keep those teens reading. Maybe they can teach the adults a thing or two about the value of books.