Degradation of Literature

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Today, I have a more serious topic to discuss with you, one that is very dear to my heart.  It all began one day when I was sitting outside the Orlando Repertory Theatre with my little brother's school class, waiting to see the new show Anne Frank and Me.  In the lobby, there were many posters of Anne Frank that chronicled her life and the major events of the second world war.  However, something struck me that day that I have never forgotten.  I was speaking with a homeschool mother about the diary of Anne Frank when I asked, “So, have you read the book?”  The woman shrugged her shoulders and replied, “No.  But I’ve seen the movie.  Is the book better?”

I could scarcely hide my surprise, considering that the diary of Anne Frank is one of the most significant books of the past century!  But unfortunately, the answer this woman gave is all too common.  People in this generation are rejecting literature and instead demanding entertainment from computers, cell phones, movies and television.  However, this shift from valuing books and their influence on culture is detrimental.  Literature not only expands readers’ comprehension of the outside world but also aids internal, personal development of the mind and heart.  I firmly believe that we should strive to make reading a priority in our lives and replace media and other forms of entertainment with books.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans on average spend about two hours a day watching television and only seven minutes reading.  If people watch television for two hours a day, that means that they watch for 730 hours a year, or 30 days a year.  This means that for every twelve years someone lives, they have spent an average of exactly one year watching TV nonstop. (

In the past, evenings were spent by the fireside reading stories as a family.  With the development of modern technology such as the radio, books were set aside and radio shows were turned on at night.  Today, we are surrounded by media at our fingertips: DVDs, iTunes, video games, the internet.  Websites like Facebook or Twitter occupy our time, thought process and energy that would be much better spent in the pages of a book.  Instead of reading the book, they just wait to watch the movie.

With the decline in voluntary reading, however, there have also been declines in testing accuracy, community activity and social behavior.  Statistics are showing that students who read are more likely to succeed.  According to the NEA’s The Arts and Civic Engagement, literary readers are more likely to engage in civic activities, including volunteering, exercising and attending social events.  (  The NEA director of research and analysis says, “This report shows striking statistical links between reading, advanced reading skills and other individual and social benefits.” (

So how do we change this literary degradation?

I believe that the answer to this social problem lies in the home and the family.  Parents should incite their children to want to read not merely for the external benefits such as getting a better job or score on the SAT.  Instead, parents should instruct their children to want to read and embark on the many adventures inside a book.  Students should develop a personal desire and willpower to read.  If children are trained to value education and knowledge, they will discover that the best way to learn is by reading from those who have already been where they want to go.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.” (

So next time you are bored and maybe just want to play a video game or check out your facebook, consider how that precious time may be better spent.  Maybe it would be best to put down Call of Duty and pick up Don Quixote or log out of Facebook and begin The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I urge you to help begin this cultural revolution, this change to value the power of the pen over the power of the media.  And maybe next time you’ll put down the remote and pick up a book, instead.

What are your thoughts on books and media's influence on literature?


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