Monday, November 23, 2015

Fighting Aliteracy - #OffTheShelfie

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."
~Mark Twain (or someone else depending on who you believe on the internet)

The average American doesn't read much, unless you count Facebook status updates, Twitter hashtags, and cheesy inspirational quotes. The Pew Research Center reported in 2014 that 23% of American adults hadn't cracked open a book (or even an ebook) in over a year.

That statistic might send you into a happy dance of hope for the population. It does mean that 77% of Americans are readers. Right?

Wrong. Most of the people surveyed read only a meager 5 or fewer books in a twelve month period. That's right, only 45% of adults managed to read more that 5 books in a year. It's really no wonder, considering most of their time is spent staring at electronic devices. Nielson reports that Americans spend 11 plus hours each day using electronic media. How many hours of Angry Birds can one person stomach in a 24 hour period?

It's called aliteracy.

In spite of all the hours of compulsory schooling and standardized testing and government-mandated curriculum, our educational system is not producing readers. Even if a child graduates as a functionally literate human being, if that child doesn't read, what has his education afforded him?

I may just be another person who believes that television and the internet have forced American culture into a dystopian post-literate wasteland of reality TV shows, stupid cat memes, and internet selfies, but the average American just isn't reading.

I don't want to be average.

I know there are other readers out there, hiding somewhere behind and between the cat memes and the vacuous selfies. And speaking of selfies, the books a person chooses to read (or not to read) reveal far more about them than staged self-portraits caught with their smart phones.

I love the idea of plastering the internet with "shelfies", pictures of our book collections for the world to see. But just because someone has a shelf full of books, doesn't mean they actually read them. Just because you own something, doesn't mean you use it regularly. (Take my vacuum cleaner for example.) Those books actually have to come off the shelf for them to do any good, in order for them to stimulate brain cells and imagination, to cause personal, intellectual, or spiritual growth.

Here's a better selfie...
I'm calling it an "off the shelfie"

It's a picture of me with my current reading selection. This book, American Sniper, isn't a typical reading choice for me. It came off the shelf because my oldest son desperately wants to be an Army ranger. I wanted a glimpse inside of what it's like to serve on an elite fighting force. Yes, I am aware that Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL, but there aren't currently any best selling books about Army rangers (Come on, Army rangers! Step up your game!), so here I am.

My impressions: war is Hell... and Navy SEALS might be a little bit crazy.

So there is my proof that I am currently fighting against American apathy. I'd love to see what everyone else is reading. Tell me in the comments. Better yet, send me a picture of what you've taken "off the shelf". I want to see what other "different than average" people are reading. And share those "off the shelfies" (#OffTheShelfie) for the internet to behold. (My teenage daughter is so going to roll her eyes at my cheesy hashtag.)

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