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From The Atlantic. Subtitle is "and why the downturn might be over".
The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn't cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.
Does reading actually change the brain?
"The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," says Gregory Berns. "We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else's shoes in a figurative sense. Now we're seeing that something may also be happening biologically."
A tough nut to crack to be sure, but Randall Munroe has taken a stab at it on his wonderfully quirky What If? site.
"The average person can read at 200-300 words per minute. If the average living writer, over their entire lifetime, falls somewhere between Isaac Asimov and Harper Lee, they might produce 0.05 words per minute over their entire lifetime. If you were to read for 16 hours a day at 300 words per minute, you could keep up with a world containing an average population of 100,000 living Harper Lees or 400 living Isaac Asimovs."
Quote attributed to George Carlin
"Don't just teach your children to read ... teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything."
Low literacy rates for adults can have wide-ranging effects on those around them. They may rely more heavily on government services; their children may not get that extra hand with schoolwork; their families may not get sufficient financial support.
But for the millions of adults with low literacy, the ability to read, write and speak English might offer them the most important opportunity of all: a chance to emerge from the shadows and participate as equals in society.
Are reality shows turning our brains to mush?
The Washington Post reports: Policymakers and politicians who wring their hands about the mediocre performance of U.S. students on international math and reading tests have another worry: The nation’s grown-ups aren’t doing much better.
A first-ever comparison of adults in the United States and those in other democracies found that Americans were below average when it comes to skills needed to compete in the global economy.
The survey, released Tuesday, measured the literacy, math and computer skills of about 5,000 U.S. adults between ages 16 and 65, and compared them with similar samples of adults from 21 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Americans are “decidedly weaker in numeracy and problem-solving skills than in literacy, and average U.S. scores for all three are below the international average and far behind the scores of top performers like Japan or Finland,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the data collection arm of the U.S. Department of Education.
Your ability to "read" the thoughts and feelings of others could be affected by the kind of fiction you read.
That's the conclusion of a study in the journal Science that gave tests of social perception to people who were randomly assigned to read excerpts from literary fiction, popular fiction or nonfiction.
Wall Street Journal, August 2, 2013.
Mr. Hewson has discovered that writing for audio requires different techniques from prose writing. Word repetition becomes glaringly obvious. So do unintentional rhymes. Location changes have to be telegraphed at the beginning of the scene, so that listeners aren't confused.
"Complex sentences, long subordinate clauses—they don't work, people get bored and confused by them," he says. "You're looking for the writing to disappear so that all people hear is the story."
The rapid rise of audio books has prompted some hand- wringing about how we consume literature. Print purists doubt that listening to a book while multitasking delivers the same experience as sitting down and silently reading. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that for competent readers, there is virtually no difference between listening to a story and reading it. The format has little bearing on a reader's ability to understand and remember a text. Some scholars argue that listening to a text might even improve understanding, especially for difficult works like Shakespeare, where a narrator's interpretation of the text can help convey the meaning.