Of all college graduates, 42% will never read another book.
Of all high school graduates, 33% will never read a book again.
The percentage of U.S. families who have not darkened the doors of a book store this year, 80% (I hope e-books accounts for at least some to that ... but the above figures don't bode well)
The percentage of adults who have not entered a bookstore in the last five years, 70%.
I could go on, but that was jaw dropping enough for me. If you want more, see: http://www.statisticbrain.com/reading-statistics/ or a number of other sites. The stats are similar and equally depressing to a book lover. It does explain to me, however, why, years ago, one father asked the question he did. We parents were gathered at the meet your child's teacher session before the year began. The teacher was discussing the advantages of reading along with your children to encourage this essential skill. The father in question asked ... when should I start reading to my child. The teacher almost suppressed her shocked look and gasped, "Now."
Let me make a plea ... although if you're reading this I'm hoping you also read books, so this might be simply preaching to the choir. Guys and gals, books are your friends. Contained within well chosen books are the wisdom, the expertise, the experiences, the ideas, the encouragement of experts in a great many fields. There is such power waiting for you between the pages of books. Books can challenge you, expand your horizons, give you new insights and approaches, enrich your life right in your own living room. If you haven't read a book since high school or college, you have forgotten ... or maybe you have never known ... the pure pleasure of reading a book of your own choosing for your own purposes. You have forgotten, or you never knew, just how empowering the ideas contained in those books can really be. And that just refers to the nonfiction side of the aisle.
In the fiction world, you can go anywhere, any time, any world and escape into a very different reality. These alternate realities present truths in different forms, in stories, that allow you to grapple with many hard questions in an enjoyable way. They are written by men and women dedicated to the great and ancient art of storytelling, one of the most venerable arts of humankind. These authors are experts in their craft and they want you to journey with them for hours ... commercial free hours mind you ... and help you to unwind from you hectic days in ways far better than may be found in front of any screen ... including this one.
These numbers suggest one of many reasons why we are such angry people and so easily fooled by the pundits on talk shows and the shills working for corporations. Spend a little time with the autobiography of the showman P.T. Barnum and you'll start to understand just when you are being fed a line of B.S. Turn off your TV, your radio, your computer. Give all those screaming for your attention from one wing of a party or another a rest and instead pick up a book. Wade into some other realm of fact or fiction. Feel your nerves sooth and your mind expand. Sit there and explore ideas with people who have spent many years researching what they have written (with some exceptions ... you do have to choose wisely among books like anything else) and enjoy the simple pleasure of learning something new from someone dedicated to helping you learn.
As a word of encouragement, the statistics say 50% of U.S. adults can't read at the 8th grade level. Don't let that stop you. Start with simpler, introductory books and work your way up. If you find a subject, any subject, that fires your passion, you'll find a way to increase that reading grade level. Keep a dictionary close at hand ... or Google ... and you'll do fine.
One final statistic I found telling. Only 15% of prison inmates are literate. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from that.