Posts Tagged ‘books’

Congratulations! Welcome to the club!


Captain Obvious Reading

Glad we cleared that up.


According to the US Department of Education, 14% of the US population – and 19% of high school graduates – can NOT read. In US adults, one in five reads below a 5th grade level, while nearly three-quarters of American prison inmates are unable to read above the 4th grade level. For juveniles in the system, the number considered functionally illiterate balloons to 85%. Statistics have shown that the lower the literacy rate of an individual, the higher their chance of being poor, on public aid, or incarcerated. [1]


if-you-can-read-this-thank-a-teacher-ef-yoo-20035752 (1)

So suri. Wish i cud giv yoo a raze.


Despite what the sad literacy rates might indicate, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly 65% of adults read at least one printed book in the past year, and 73% read a book in any format. [2] A slight decline from the 2012 survey, but still hopeful numbers. Sadly, these don’t seem to include the President. [3] When the supposed “leader of the free world” finds reading unnecessary, that can only mean even more cognitive bias and greater misunderstandings.


Enter Society

This could get ugly.


The digital revolution has increased the efficiency and availability of hardware and software that can take dictation, transcribe music, read print aloud, and anticipate the user’s next need based on previous interactions. However, there’s some argument against our gadgets actually being good for us. The Marist Poll indicates that a majority of poll respondents believed our devices are detrimental to relationships and lives, leaving us – ironically – less connected. [4]



And what about when your battery dies?



The more our toys do for us, the less we do for ourselves. Cursive is rarely taught in schools anymore, and an angry toddler with a broken crayon might as well have done what printing I’ve seen from the younger generation. Plus our collective attention span seems to be growing shorter by the minute. With instantaneous communication, video-on-demand, same-day shipping, and click-bait disguised as news, trying to focus on anything for any length of time is a growing challenge. But writing things by hand can lead to better comprehension, [5] and reading more can make you smarter. [6]



Wands supplied by Ticonderoga and Waterman.



And now that I’ve used lots of pretty pictures to keep your attention, here’s the point of the story: go read. Go read lots. Go read now. Go read printed or electronic. Go read with friends. Go read alone. Just read. We’ll all be better off. And maybe we can stave off the regression back into pictographs just a little while longer. [7]




[1] “15 US Literacy Rate and Illiteracy Statistics”


[2] “Book Reading 2016”


[3] “Trump ‘does not read books’: report”


[4] “6/21: Is Technology “Dumbing Down” Society?”


[5] “Why Pen and Paper Beats a Laptop Every Time for Taking Notes”


[6] “Warren Buffett’s reading routine could make you smarter, science suggests”


[7] “How Emojis are Like Hieroglyphics”



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Being middle-aged is more than watching your waistline expand like a balloon at the carnival; it’s also about watching the myriad pieces of your childhood disappear, one by one, until there’s nothing left but fuzzy memories. This is the way of the world. Time marches on, change is inevitable, and the only guarantees left are death and taxes. Or maybe it’s death BY taxes… I’ll get back to you on that one.

Anyway, another piece of my youth is falling by the wayside. Last week David Letterman announced his retirement. You can watch how he handled it in his usual sarcastic way here. Now, Dave wasn’t necessarily a part of my childhood – I grew up watching Johnny Carson, and he will always be THE late night TV host for me – but Dave has always been my first choice for late night as an adult because of his dry sarcastic wit, his fearless and pointed questions, and his inimitable ability to be the perfect straight man. Supposedly Carson’s chosen successor, there was quite the furor when NBC went with Jay Leno instead, and is the cause behind Letterman jumping ship (quite successfully) to CBS.

That was another reason I stuck with Letterman; I don’t like it when people are shafted (I’m still mad at the Cowboys for how they fired Tom Landry – yes, I hold grudges). I enjoyed Leno as a stand up comedian, but I could just never get into him as a talk show guy. And I’m really showing how curmudgeonly I am by swearing off Jimmy Fallon (almost) entirely. Talented youngster, but most of his stuff isn’t funny to me (okay, some of the musical stuff is hilarious, but I’m a Weird Al Yankovic fan, too, so there you go. You actually have to be a pretty damn good musician yourself to parody others, and that I can really appreciate.) I’m hoping Craig Ferguson gets promoted so there will be at least one crazy person left on late night TV I can still enjoy.

The speculations abound as to why Letterman has chosen to retire now. I think David Bianculli puts forth the best reasons in his CNN opinion pieceIs Internet driving Letterman away?” It all goes back to what I said at the beginning – change is inevitable. The younger generation wants everything in sound bites. Memes and viral videos are the way of the world now, and someone like Letterman just doesn’t translate well to those micro-mediums.

It’s the same reason behind the decline of the printed word. There’s an entire generation of short-attention-span-theater-goers coming up right now, running around with their smart phones, tablets, e-readers and Siri-enabled cars. Most don’t want to bother to take longer than a few minutes to engage their brain in anything. They’re like a bunch of fleas on a hot plate, jumping about from one thing to the next and never landing anywhere for very long. And people wonder about the rise of ADHD diagnoses. I don’t think it’s actually a genetic thing – I think it’s an environment thing. The world is overloaded with sensory input and our frail human brains are having a hard time keeping up with it all.

Don’t get me wrong – I love technology. I have a smart phone and think e-readers are where the future of reading is headed. But I’m also an unapologetic bibliophile. It’s why I’m so insistent on exhausting every possibility at selling my novel into actual hard copy. I want to feel that heft, smell that new paper and the fresh ink, walk into a bookstore and see that spine with my name on a shelf. It is my golden ideal. And, like David Letterman, I seem to be one of the last of my kind.

Books don’t seem to carry the importance and status they used to. Being able to read and write was once a significant privilege reserved only for the carefully selected few (read: stinking rich or high level clergy). The invention of the printing press allowed the greater masses to become part of that vaunted learned class. Once the “ordinary” people gained the ability to see for themselves what all those fancy books said, significant social and economic changes quickly followed. Knowledge is power, and books became the symbol (and actual medium) of that power.

Books don’t need batteries. They don’t bow to public opinion. They don’t change words between readings, or advertise the latest fashion drug between paragraphs. You can use them while your plane is taking off and landing. You can read them in the bathtub without fear of electrocuting yourself. Take them with you to a coffee shop, a convention, or even to court and no one will blink twice. In a pinch, you can level your computer desk or knock out a burglar. Try that with your e-reader.

And in the advent of a real zombie apocalypse, where do you think all you fancy city folk are going to learn how to do anything without your trusty electronic minders? Yeah, books, bitches.

So while Letterman is going out with grace and dignity after a lengthy and successful career, I’ll give up my books with all the grace and dignity of a rabid badger on meth. I know, I know, most of you hear “bookshelf” and think:

 bookshelves coco rocha in vogue


Not exactly my definition. I’d rather have something more like:

English manor libraryhttp://www.beautiful-libraries.com/3500-1.html

And maybe one day I will. But in the mean time, this old fart will enjoy:

Cheri's bookshelves

…and hope soon my own words will be in those piles somewhere with the rest.


© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.


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