I’m reading Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful by Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes. Glenda graciously sent a copy to me awhile back, and I added it to my stack of books to read which means it was a book that needed to make it to the top of my pile.
I confess I’ve not read well in quite some time. I still read a lot, but typically blog posts and articles, and sometimes books (mostly nonfiction). My love of writing sprung from a love of reading, and that love needs to be rekindled. Unfortunately, with its many benefits and bringing libraries of information to our fingertips, the internet has not been kind in that regard.
It is a cultural problem. One of my chief complaints about the Common Core State Standards (that were essentially accepted everywhere, rebranded, and brought to a K-12 classroom near you) was its focus on informational text at the expense of classical literature.
The decline of the art of reading started long before that, however, and I see it in myself.
“The decline of reading has impoverished our culture and individual lives. We have lost mental sharpness, verbal skills, and the ability to think and imagine. Our leisure has little meaning, and we’re consumed with self. We fail to recognize beauty or the value of either the past or essential human experience. We suffer from a lack of edification and a shrunken vision,” Ryken and Mathes write.
Consider how much time we spend on social media, the endless scroll, clickbait headlines, memes, and funny videos. Now, social media has positive elements certainly. I know it has helped me build a platform, reconnect with high school friends, keep in touch with family out-of-town, engage with ideas different than my own, and more.
But it is also such a huge time suck, and there is also the temptation to become consumed with self. (All one has to do is take a look at the average Instagram feed.)
I can attest that my attention span is not what it used to be. Not reading well has impacted my creativity. I used to write poetry, something that I have not done in years.
I know we would all be better off if we would spend less time on social media and more time reading literature. I know I would.
I’m challenging myself and you to do just that.