I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately about how younger generations read less and less. A few weeks ago a large local newspaper had an opinion text written by a 15-year-old girl about how reading is considered “lame” among her peers and people reading books are geeks or nerds.
That made me quite sad. When I was her age, years ago, I read every chance I got. The man who used to drive a bus and worked at the local library once told my aunt he was sure I’d read half the library. I wish, really. For such a small place, that library was (and is) awesome.
Ever since I learned to read when I was six years old I’ve read a lot. My mother would read me a bedtime story every night until I was competent enough a reader to read myself (and of course, she or my father would read to me otherwise as well, but not every day). After I learned to read all by myself, my mother had to remind me to actually start sleeping and not read the whole night.
I had dozens of children’s books and compilations of fairy tales – which my mother has all kept, waiting for me to have children of my own. Perhaps in time I will fill that collection with books of today (although I can tell you from watching my nephews and niece and their books that those are not so great as the books of my own childhood – rose-tinted glasses?).
I used to correct my dad’s reading (he has a very strong accent and says some words funny because of it), but that never took away from the fact I enjoyed those little moments with my parents; me in my nighties and them reading aloud with me until I went to sleep. I have a very strong recollection of my dad reading me a Nancy Drew -book – that must have been when I was already in school – and me telling him over and over that the word was kid-napping, not whatever it was he said.
That time has left me with an unquenchable love for books; I love to read them, to handle them, to share their words of wisdom. And I cannot deny enjoying buying them – perhaps a bit too much at times (468 and counting).
It is no wonder then, that I worry the kids of today won’t get to enjoy the same experiences I so cherish: the sound of your parent reading, the feel of the pages, the build-up of a good story. I hope, though, that the electronic world of today will not too much distance the younger generations from the enjoyment that is the written word.
And just after my worry was starting to peak (despite the words of encouragement of that 15-year-old who loved to read), the paper had another news story about reading. More and more grown-ups had started to visit one local library to get coaching (or tutoring, the article is not in English and I’m translating on the run) on reading. There is one librarian who speaks with the people interested and suggests them books they might like to read. Both sit down and talk about what the other person liked to read and what not. Then the librarian gives suggestions and when they meet again the tutored tells her whether they liked them or not or whether they left them unfinished and gets more suggestions.
A wonderful idea I wished was used more. I love to recommend books I’ve read (and loaning them out, though I try to cut back on that because getting them back can be a hassle – thanks a lot to the person who stole my Dark Tower books). My husband is yet to pick up a single book I’ve recommended, but then, he has trouble concentrating and my taste for smart reading and long literary experience tend to produce some heavy-to-read suggestions. My parents love their Christmas present books though (crime for dad, romance/drama for mom). Last year I bought my mom the Anthony Doerr book that was just then translated to Finnish – mom loved it, dad hated it (but hey, that was why I gave dad a Jo Nesbø).
I think part of the worry is publishers lobbying for traditional books. Much of writing and publishing has transferred over to the internet (and books are even shared illegally as torrent files!). I bet it’s quite hard to try and keep the book market afloat with so much free written material of all kinds that can be found online. And quite a percent of it is actually pretty good (or in some cases better than many actual books I’ve read)!
It might not be then, that popularity of reading is on the decline, it might just be the popularity of the traditional media. I of course see that as a bit problematic, because I love the smell and feel of an actual book. It is not the end of the world, though.
Do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Do you feel the popularity of books and/or reading is declining (and why)? Please, do tell.