Sunday, November 25, 2007

"To Read or Not to Read"

"To Read or Not to Read"
Poor readers big losers in job market
BY Sonya Neufeld

THE LESS time you spend with your nose in a book, the worse your reading ability gets, "alarming" new research shows.

The US-based National Endowment for the Arts collated statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits of Americans in a new study called "To Read or Not to Read", issued last week.

It found that, on average, Americans aged 15 to 24 spent nearly two hours a day watching television and only seven minutes of their free time reading.

According to the NEA, American 15-year-olds ranked 15th in average reading scores for 31 industrialised nations, behind Canada, Ireland, Korea, Finland, Sweden and Poland.

Australian 15-year-olds came fourth.

The percentage of even the best-educated adults, who attended college and had been rated proficient in reading prose, slipped by 20 per cent from 1992 to 2003.

When it comes to looking for a job, that's bad news. A survey in the report revealed that nearly three-quarters of employers who were polled rated "reading comprehension" as "very important" for workers with two-year college degrees and nearly 90 per cent said the same for graduates of four-year degrees.

In his preface to the 99-page report, NEA chairman Dana Gioia described the data as "simple, consistent and alarming".

He said it revealed a "disturbing" pattern. "As Americans, especially young Americans, read less, they read less well," he said.

"Because they read less well, they have lower levels of academic achievement.

"With lower levels of reading and writing ability, people do less well in the job market.
"Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages and fewer opportunities for advancement."

Prisoners had significantly worse reading skills than other adults, and "deficient readers" were less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting.

The research showed that daily reading "overwhelmingly" correlated with better reading skills and higher academic achievement, boosting the likelihood of economic success.
Mr Gioia said the study confirmed the "central importance" of reading for a "prosperous, free society".

"[It] is not an elegy for the bygone days of print culture, but instead is a call to action not only for parents, teachers, librarians, writers and publishers, but also for politicians, business leaders, economists, and social activists."