Friday, May 20, 2011

Escape from Pleasantville

Growing up in Palmy, I had a rather traditional NZ childhood upbringing. Hours and days of glorious solitude. Laissez faire parenting with the occasional slap from the invisible hand. Moving homes, moving towns, moving in fits and starts. Family quality time compressed into the confines of a moving vehicle, with all its "Are we there yet?" brittleness.

Escape was the goal. I realised that the first time I tried to run away at age five. Alas, there was nowhere to run to. Then I discovered books:

Nicked from here, HT BoingBoing.
Books were the only thing that lasted in our house, and they were plentiful. The old man made me burn many things, but never a book.

When I visit friends with kids these days, I keep a quiet note of the quality and quantity of their libraries. It's not a snob point, it is a matter of access to education for their sprogs. Or themselves, for that matter. Alas, the tidings are not good. Brains cannot be fed on sports biographies and recipe books alone.

And yet, my highly selective polling of NZ homes fares much better than the ones done on US households:
1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.
70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.
That's ripped from here, which has much more depressing evidence of the continuing decline in American intelligence. But screw the adults, what about the children?
As many as 42 percent of American children come from families without the “luxury” disposable income to purchase new books, according to a NYTimes “Fixes” blog post, and tens of millions of families have no books at home at all.
HT Melville House Publishing via onegoodmove.

This will not have a happy ending.