One great thing about my life right now is that more and more people know that I have this blog. This means that there are more and more loyal Iserotope readers, which increases the likelihood that I get inundated, as has happened the past few days, with great articles about reading.
“Have you seen this?” one person wrote.
“You’ve probably read this already, but I wanted to send it to you,” another person wrote.
It makes me really happy. Thank you! It also makes my reading flow a little easier. If loyal Iserotope readers are sending me something to read, that means it goes to the top of my list. And it means that I’m likely going to write a post about it — like I’m doing now!
Here are three articles that people have sent me:
“Read, Kids, Read”
By Frank Bruni, The New York Times
This column is a bit all over the place, but I appreciate Mr. Bruni’s central point: Books are “personal” and “passionate,” and they offer focus, similar to meditation. If you haven’t been following the research over the past year about the benefits of reading fiction (e.g., increased focus, more empathy, greater intelligence), this piece offers a good summary. Mr. Bruni, however, is extremely concerned about a recent report by Common Sense Media that concludes that recreational reading among teenagers has plummeted over the past decade. I am dispirited, too, but it’s not like didn’t know that reading is on the decline.
Common Sense Media: Children, Teens, and Reading
A Report on the State of Reading, May 2014
This is the doom-and-gloom report that Mr. Bruni was talking about. To be sure, the conclusions are a bit scary. High school students are reading less often for pleasure, and the percentage of students who rarely or never read for fun has gone up drastically.
The report blames this trend on the following reason: “The technology revolution of the past decade has led our society to a major transition point in the history of reading.” In other words, traditional reading is boring, while surfing the Internet or checking your Instagram is fun. I don’t know if totally buy this argument.
The most jarring statistic to me was that mean household income was virtually the same (and quite high, I might add!). The table seems to suggest that the keys to promote reading are to put lots of books in your home and to set aside structured time to read. (This advice is corroborated by many research studies. For example, one study I read last month indicated that it is perhaps more important for parents themselves to read a lot than for parents to read to their children.)
Overall, I’m not sure what to think of this report. It tried to bring together the findings of seven studies, each of which had different definitions of reading — does reading your phone constitute reading? — and relied on widely divergent methods. Despite the big press it got, I’m not so sure the report succeeded.
As a side note, the report did mention Kindles and other e-readers. A few recent articles are very negative toward e-readers. That’s because they don’t know what they’re talking about. 🙂
By Dale Russakoff, The New Yorker
This one’s a must-read. It tells the story of school reform in Newark, New Jersey. Yes, that’s where Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million. And that’s where U.S. Senator Cory Booker promised to revolutionize and revitalize public education. This is a well-written article that incisively describes all that is wrong about the American education system today.
I mean, it’s a really tough read. You’ve got the old-school Newark school district, which was not working. (The student-to-administrator ratio was 6:1. Ridiculous.) And then you’ve got the Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey and Cory Booker (whom I want to like) and Chris Christie. Then there’s union-busting and union-slamming. And plenty and plenty of for-profit consultants.
Ms. Russakoff doesn’t say this directly, but it’s pretty clear that he thinks that Newark’s school system can’t be fixed, that Mr. Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation was spent wastefully, with little or none of it going to help students, and that neither the status-quo nor reform efforts can address the challenges of urban schools.
Yes, it’s depressing, but you have to read it. You can also find it at Iserotope Extras.
Again, thank you, loyal Iserotope readers, for sending me articles. It shows that you care. If you have an article for me to read, please send it to mark AT iserotope DOT com. Thank you!