It’s one thing to be literate… to have the skill to read. It’s another thing to be identified as a reader of books. Regrettably, most Americans don’t read much, if at all. According to the Pew Research Center:
Among all American adults, the average (mean) number of books read or listened to in the past year is 12 and the median (midpoint) number is 5–in other words, half of adults read more than 5 books and half read fewer. Neither number is significantly different from previous years.
Half of American adults read 5 books or less per year? That’s stunning. With average reading skills (250 words per minute), it would take just 6 hours to read one 200 page book. The average book in America is 232 pages, so let’s round that up, being conservative, to 6 1/2 hours per book. That would mean it would take about 32.5 hours to read five books. Hang with me here… just a little more math… there are about 5,782 awake hours per year (assuming 8 hours of sleep per day). Putting it all together, this means that the average American adult spends about 0.0056% of their waking hours reading books.
Let’s compare that to watching television. According to multiple sources, the average American adult watches over 5 hours of television per day. This roughly 32% of waking hours. And this isn’t even counting watching movies at the cinema or on DVD. Yikes!
I can understand why this the lifestyle of the average American adult is more about television than reading. We all want to “chill our” after a long day at work, and the idea of working your way through a book is not exactly the best way to chill out after working all day.
Neither do I want to suggest that watching TV is morally wrong or sinful. Depending on what you are watching, TV can land anywhere on the moral spectrum. However, one has to wonder if our lives would be more greatly enriched if we were to reduce that television input at least a little and pick up a book more often, especially if it is a good book. And please note, I’m not too naive to fail to recognize that the same that is said about television offerings representing all points on the moral spectrum also applies to books. There are fantastic, enriching, life-changing books and there are raunchy, trashy, morally bankrupt books and all manner in between. I want to move forward with this discussion under the assumption that we are talking about reading quality books.
Are You a Reader?
What about you? Can you identify yourself as a reader? I’m not asking if you are literate. I’m asking if you read books. Here are some probing questions: When was the last time you completed an entire book? Do you have a book, or books, that you are currently reading? How many books did you read last year?
If your answers to those questions leaves you disappointed with yourself as a reader, and if you want to do something about it, please keep reading.
I’m not going to lay out a number of books that you must read to be considered a legitimate “reader.” You need to decide that for yourself. We are all at different stations in life and being a “reader” for one person might mean reading six books a year (one per month) while being a “reader” for another person might mean reading many more.
If you happen to be someone who is disappointed with the amount you read, I want to extend some encouragement to you, and hopefully offer you a helping hand in becoming the reader you desire to be.