February 11, 2012 in City

Donald Clegg: If you’re reading this, congratulations

Donald Clegg

All right, it’s feel-good time for almost everyone reading this, and it doesn’t matter in the least whether you generally agree with me or not. Last time out, I made fun of my lack of social network skills and whined (nicely) that no one reads anymore, promising to tell you why this is a Big Deal.

So just congratulate yourself for subscribing to the paper, or cracking a book now and then, especially of a literary nature.

(My source for the following is the November 2007 NEA study “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence,” which is worth a more thorough look.)

The more advanced you are as a reader, especially if it qualifies as “literature” for you (probably not my latest Lee Child thriller), the more likely you are to attend cultural events, to volunteer, and even to exercise more, no matter your education level.

Nothing, but nothing, has given me more pleasure, for more years, than reading.

I’ll read the back of a cereal box if I have to. Back in the day, as folks on the wrong side of 50 (me) might put it, I had to go to the library two or three times a week, since kids 12 and under were limited to three books per checkout.

Contrast this with the 65 percent of college freshmen who only read for pleasure an hour or less a week. And, by the time they’re seniors, a third read nothing at all for pleasure. But never mind fun. Back in another day, as a returning adult student at Eastern Washington University, I was appalled to calculate that a lazy undergrad could actually read fewer than 40 books and still get a bachelor’s degree.

Ten books a year? Please. I still remember the day that I made that routine bike ride to the library, only to find that there were no more titles to read in the science-fiction section. Four-hundred books or thereabouts, all devoured. Total bummer. Good thing we moved a lot.

Half of employers rate written communication as a “very important” skill, yet 80 percent of them say, “High school graduates suck.” Oh, I mean, “are deficient.” But, hey, it gets better if you go to college, right? Oops, almost 30 percent of college grads probably can’t even spell “suck,” as they’re also deficient.

I know it’s “elitist” to talk about visiting art museums, attending plays and musicals, going to classical music concerts, or even, say, creating some of the above yourself, but literary readers are between three and four times more likely to do so than nonreaders. Weirdly, they exercise almost twice as much. Apparently, reading doesn’t make you a total couch potato.

And for those of you who think that government is not even one of many answers, and that we should abolish anything that actually helps someone, make sure you get in some time with Dickens or Twain. If charity’s the answer to those lousy entitlement programs, well, literary readers are more than twice as likely as nonreaders to volunteer or engage in charity work.

Since Mitt Romney says he’s “not concerned” about either the very poor or the very rich, maybe he figures the 0.0001 percent like him (that’s a guess, people) volunteer 24-7, doling out hundred-dollar bills like candy.

Or – darn, here goes my 100 percent feel-good rating – maybe he just needs to do what Jesus said: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

Maybe then, being among them, he’ll change his tune.

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at info@donaldclegg.com.

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