Saturday, April 19, 2008


Lines at the book chains suggest that reading is still a beloved pastime in the United States. Yet it is hard to believe that we in the 21st century read any more than we did before the birth of those Behemoths.

On the contrary, the Internet, Tivo and cable TV threaten to strangle the last drop of literacy out of us. I suspect that the majority of books purchased go unread. We are in the habit of buying books, not reading them.

So I extracted myself from my cynical mantle and set out in search of someone actually reading instead of surfing the net or talking on a cell phone. These are a few of the readers that I found:

In the neighborhood coffee shop. Notice the blue background. I'm learning how to use Photoshop.
My wonderful, kind, nervous, agitated bus driver on his short break.
A man on the #3 bus. In my mind, the NY Review of Books counts as a book-like collection of essays.

A woman in the gym:
So, maybe it's useful to ask ourselves these questions:
  • What are we teaching children about the value of reading vs. the internet?
  • What do they see adults doing all day long?
  • Does a child ever see you read a book? (I include myself in the question).
Go out and look for readers this week. You will find a few. It's a really fun and gratifying and even inspiring game.


Peggy said...

What about our friends who used to be readers and now prefer to listen to their books--distracted by traffic, phone calls, and assorted other things that make them miss whole pages? Is that reading?

I love this post of yours. I wonder what you have been reading--anything to recommend? :-)

I always have a book going (speaking for myself and not my observations, as per this post; how brazen!). Most recent read was Remembering the Bones, which I enjoyed.

I look forward to your posts and unfailingly enjoy the graphics!

Lana Gramlich said...

You're right on with this post, unfortunately. I fear the book is headed for the endangered species list. <:\ I don't know if you'd heard, but Pres. Bush recently cut off funding for the old "Reading is Fundamental" program. Someone really needs to stop that boy (he's not a man.)

Working at the local library, I'm glad for the opportunity I have to encourage local readers of all ages. I'm also fortunate in living in an area that seems to appreciate the blessing that reading truly is. When I visit my bro's family I take time to read to his kids, too.

Anonymous said...

I am an avid reader. I average about two books a week. My son at age 11 is also a great reader and reads a variety of things from novels, non-fiction, to comics. For a while I thought the book was on the endangered list but now I am not so sure. Our local library is always packed and most people borrow about five or six books. I liked the busdriver reading 1984. Many of the busdrivers I know are quite interested in social activism. Brilliant post!

bobbie said...

This is a really wonderful post! But I don't think reading is on its way out. From what I've seen, it's here to stay. My own children are avid readers, and started their children's libraries even before they were born. As Selma said, the libraries are packed. I think there are enough of us book lovers to assure the literacy of future generation. I certainly hope so!

These drawing are priceless. You've captured the best of our favorite passtime.

Anonymous said...

As usual a great post. I, too, am an avid reader. I've just finished People of the Book, a fictional account of the Sarajevo Haggadah. It's interesting - I'm a third grade teacher. This year I have a class of students who are not great readers - you can always tell by the quality of their work. But I read to them all the time, and they learn to enjoy literature through listening. I can see how their attitude to reading changes after a year with me! Also their ability to listen changes too - it gets stronger. I'm looking for readers this week!

Suzie Ridler said...

In some ways, because of the internet, we are reading more. Is literacy still being threatened? Absolutely! No one seems to care about grammar which bothers me a great deal. I'm glad you found so many people reading so much enlightening material. I read more online these days than books but I still have a stack of books I'm working through. I just don't like to rush the process.

Beautiful illustrations! There is so much personality in all of them.

Ginnie said...

Another great post, Caroline. I can honestly qualify for this one since I am an avid reader, as is my oldest son. We both read at least a book or two a week. My middle son rarely reads and my daughter does read but slowly. So, since they were all brought up the same way it makes one wonder whether the reading bug can be taught or is it just instinctual to certain people.
I can't imagine a world without books but I can't afford new ones. Thank goodness for yard sales and thrift shops !

TR Ryan said...

Fantastic post. Ranks up there as one of my all time favorites in both content and design. Your drawings in this post just delight more than one could deem possible.

I am an avid reader. I keep four or five books going. When life is at its most hectic, I then make dates with myself several times a week to do nothing but read.

I do have to admit -- there are a few well written blogs (Zickefoose for example) that are as indelible on my mind and my soul as a good book. So I don't write off the internet as quickly as many do.

However, there is nothing more sacred than a book and holding a good one in your hands is rapturous. Sometimes I think they have little souls of their own.

Your post really hits home how everyday ordinary people use books as a way to escape the moment, to bring order into chaos and to ground themselves. That really hit home with me today. Its more than just reading. Brava!

ana said...

What a delight! Daughter of a librarian, I am a reading tragic.

Have just lighted on your blog and discovered its joys.

Your observations so exquisitely captured here will focus mine over the week ahead.

thank you for sharing your artistic gifts and your endearingly fresh view of life around you.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Excellent post! I recently joined my local library and am slowly working my way through lots of books that I've wanted to read at one point or another. I still haven't read everything I got for Christmas, though!

Incidentally, there's a delightful blog that was listed in Blogger's 'Blogs of Note' a short while ago in which a girl approached strangers who were reading in public and asked them if she could take their photo and interviewed them about the book for her blog. It was a very entertaining read.

Mary said...

Terrific post! I don't read as often as I did in the past because I'm always reading blogs! Now and then I miss the feeling of being into a great novel, counting the minutes until I can sit with it again, and staying up way too late at night to finish a chapter.

I hate newspaper, though. I'd rather read the news on the internet. The feel of newspaper print makes me nuts.

Anonymous said...

Crayons dahlink,
You make several good points in this post. The drawings are fun. I especially like the last one showing frenetic adults on laptops. I used to read a lot more than I do now. I find that the internet soaks up my free time.

Ed said...

I would say I probably don't read quite as many books as I did BG (before blogs), but I write a lot more than I did BG. I still read books every day, the computer screen just doesn't provide the same level of satisfaction as an actual book, and I need to have a book going or I get agitated. My kids grew up with adults reading around them and now they read all the time.

It seems that there are two groups of people out there: those who read and those who never read. I suspect that the latter group is growing. Most of the people I know are readers, but I know people who never read a book. It's work for them. Most of them watch a lot of television. I never watch television. I hate it. Maybe that's why I have time to read.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Another sweet post. I am so glad that you share your art and opinions with us.

Suzy said...

BUSH cut off funding for RIF??? And him, married to a so-called LIBRARIAN???? Lana, that just bums me out! (But what doesn't bum me out about that guy?)

In our house, we all bring books to the dinner table (sorry if that offends -- but you know, we're eating dinner together, another endangered species.)

Excellent post, Caroline. Much food for thought.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Great post and I always love your drawings! I'm happy to say that all is well in my family. My 86 year old mother who can barely see anymore still tries to read with a magnifying glass. There are always books in our houses, and my nieces and nephews are now teaching their small children to read. We do spend entirely too much time on electronic media though, as is evidenced by our ever increasing tummy and butt sizes. ;-)

Lana Gramlich said...

Suzy; Yes, it's sad but true. In the upper right hand corner of the RIF page you can send a letter to your local congressman about this.

Timaree said...

I have two granddaughters who love to read and one who likes to. One is now so involved in gymnastics she only finds time during vacations to read but she was born to it Before she could read she loved books, newspapers, and anything else with the printed word (not pictures) on it. She couldn't go to sleep when she was a baby without a book in her hand.

But my grandson with severe ADHD doesn't enjoy reading. His teacher was surprised though since he really got into a book (7th grade) required for their grade which I guess the teachers are trying to remove from the list as it's too difficult!

I read and my two grown children read - a lot. My daughter even has a library in her home. My husband never liked to read and only reads manuals - oh, no, let me correct that - he's found the political blogs and is reading them all day now with this election business. My reading has deteriorated some since I read so many blogs but I try to find interesting ones.

Your pictures were great. If only I could draw so well. Love your banner too. All the right colors swirling about.

kate smudges said...

Hi Caroline,

I'm always been an avid reader and so are my friends. I forget that not everyone dives into books as often as I do.

I have a slightly different take on this than you do. When I'm on the internet, I'm reading, albeit in a different format. I think it is just as valid as reading on paper.

My son reads books in paper, but he also reads far more online through internet searches on subjects that interest him. He has vast stores of knowledge on subjects that I didn't know existed when I was 15. I see value in this too ... words in paper are the same as words on screen, it seems to me.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is so delightful. This post hit home definitely...must do more reading in front of the kids sine mostly I do it at night when they're ghone to bed. thanx

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I consider myself a "reader"--though I seldom read a book.
Much of my need for information requires it be current, and with electronic publishing, paper books are full of old information by the time they're in print.

Working in a library, we consider any form that conveys meaning acceptable.
Audio books, ebooks, and, as always, the printed book.
If not for the internet and all its readers, where would we be? (bloggers)

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love your drawings, the characters are so alive! I read all the time and am often seen reading books on buses or trains or in cafes. I see quite a lot of other people reading on buses and trains too