I Pity the 23%
Posted on February 10, 2014 by Sister Carol Perry

The Pew Research Center has released some interesting data. Maybe that is not the right word. Would dismaying or perturbing or saddening be a better choice? Their research reveals that last year 23% of Americans did not read a single book.

To an avid reader like me (maybe 3 books and several periodicals a week) that statistic is almost frightening since it indicates an upturn over the past 35 years: in 1978 that figure was 8%; in 1990 it was 16%. What an upturn. (All statistics are courtesy of THE WEEK of 2/7/14)

I know I am not a totally representative American. I can never be without something to read or I feel mentally deprived. Interestingly, I had dinner with 3 friends recently and, in the course of our conversation, we all revealed that we never leave home without something to read, either a magazine or a book or our Kindles, in our bags. As one of my fellow diners said: "Waiting is so different if you can focus on something besides the fact that you are waiting." To which I responded: "Yes!"

I know many people are busy reading their text messages. I imagine they too can be absorbing, but when I think of the friends I have met, the adventures I have had, the knowledge I have gleaned, all from reading, then I feel infinite pity for the 23% who have missed all that.

I have no way of knowing if that survey checked whether those non-readers of books read anything else. How do they check on world affairs and politics? Is it by the info-tainment that is often the nightly news? Have they never had a favorite author whose newest book always thrills by its very arrival?

They will never agonize with Jane Eyre; they might imagine that Dr. Watson has an actual practice; they will never see the dark side of Los Angeles with Harry Bosch... you can add to the list of fictional people who are almost real to us readers.

I weep for what they will never know, but I have no way to identify the non-readers of books whose paths cross mine. Instead, I delight in the readers I do see on the subway. I thrill to the fact that they are part of the 77% who discovered the joy and the power of a book!

And you?


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Sister Carol Perry

A gifted teacher and resident bible scholar at Marble, Sister Carol uses her extensive scholarship and imaginative storytelling skills to offer a fresh and innovative approach to exploring the Scriptures, bringing the stories of the Bible to life.

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