A new survey by the National Endowment for the Arts finds that fewer Americans are reading serious literature. I have always been an avid reader, the summer trips to the library being a highlight of my childhood. Even though I find it hard to believe, my mother used to insist that the first book I read was “Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain. I do remember reading the book though–and many others off my parents’ shelves.
I always thought that I came by my political ideals and my love of debate as dinner table discussion from my reading. I was armed. In later life I have come to believe young people who become serious readers will avoid the problems I see daily in my community–drug addiction, crime, teenage pregnancy. They too will be armed.
I may be a naive middle-class white guy, born and bred in the suburbs, but I still believe this to be true. It may be true for more than just serious reading. I’m always a sucker for those stories about urban kids who turn their lives around after they get into say chess or fencing. I guess anything that instills discipline and makes you stretch your brain will work.