Every so often, I run into people who complain that children don’t read books anymore. These statements are always partly true disappointment, partly self-congratulatory, and partly of that human impulse to mythologize the good old days.
The truth is that the good old days weren’t all that good. The overall illiteracy rate in the United States in 1900 was 10.7% (30% for African Americans), according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 100 years later, in 2003, the CIA estimates a 1% illiteracy rate in the United States, thanks to mandated public education and the ongoing battle against discrimination.
Of course, even if kids are now more able to read, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are reading.
Turns out the naysayers weren’t finished being wrong.
When I brought 8 boxes of books (of all types—classic lit, mysteries, history, business, science, etc) to Trenton High West and set them in the cafeteria for students to take for free, Shaquasia Fuller (the student who helped organize this) emailed me an hour after lunch to say that all 8 boxes were gone, all voluntarily taken by Trenton High School students (except for one book by Anthony Trollope. Sorry Anthony!)
For National Night Out, when the Alexis Durlacher of the Trenton Police Department got a box of books to give away to Trenton kids alongside plastic toys provided by NNO, Alexis reported that the books were all gone before the plastic knicknackery.
The Trenton Books at Home Program distributes thousands of books every year to thankful teachers, parents and kids.
So, grumpy people, who long for the good old days, should confine their statements to the price of gas, when poker games that included more variations than Texas Hold ‘em and when Firefly was on the air.
Here’s a repost about a girl who loves to read so much, the library had to order more books because she had read everything on the shelves!