Potter’s Magic Doesn’t Work on Young Readers

A federal report shows that the decline in reading as children grow older is about the same as it was before Rowling’s boy wizard made such a splash in the book world. The chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts told the New York Times that while the Potter books were a good thing for childhood reading, a book every few years was not enough to reverse the decline in the number of young readers.

It is nifty that this article comes out just as I am reading The Gutenberg Elegies, in which Sven Birkerts laments the coming of the digital age and the death of deep reading. Children (and everyone, Birkerts might argue) are presented with myriad options and a fast-paced lifestyle that doesn’t leave a lot of room for the slow and laborious (yet rewarding) task that reading can be.

Should we once again wail and moan for the death of the book? Not yet, not in an age where more books are published each year than in the year before. Not in an age when many peoples’ idea of fun is hanging out in a bookstore, drinking lattes while browsing for a new read.

Yes, children are reading less and less. Yes, it is a detriment to their writing skills and of course their reading skills. When my college freshman class whines and moans and tells me that Emerson’s “American Scholar” is far too hard to understand and write about, I die a little inside, but it is a lifestyle change that I embrace and one that I am not going to fight.

Not on this languid Thursday, anyhow.


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