Some adults not reading by example
July 4, 2008
Park City Adult Services Librarian Merry White is worried her peers aren’t reading enough. Never mind that her peers are in their 30s, 40s and 50s. "We certainly have a small but dedicated group of library patrons," she said, but added, "We don’t reach as many people in the community as we would like."
White pointed to the dismal turnout during the visiting author series as one piece of evidence for equally dismal reading rates.
Her concern about the erosion of literacy among adults has been corroborated by a number of surveys released each year. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll published in 2007 found that most American adults are hardly rapacious readers. According to the survey, one in four adults read no books at all in 2006 and the average person claimed to have read just four books that year.
Dan Compton, an information services librarian at Summit County Library, said he sees a steady stream of foot traffic at the Kimball Junction location. "Our circulation numbers are good," he explained. "There are a lot of parents who come into story time. It’s great to see that."
But take a closer look at Summit County Library’s circulation numbers and observers get a slightly different picture: Kids are reading circles around their parents.
The total fiction circulation for all four of Summit County’s library branches in 2007 was 48,646.
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The total juvenile fiction circulation was about two-thirds larger than that number.
Adults and kids checked out about the same amount of nonfiction books and adults were more prone to listen to audiobooks than their children, Compton said.
"Audiobooks have been really popular," he said. "It’s a way for people to still read and get caught up on current events."
White has seen a similar bump in the popularity of books on tape and CD in her year at Park City Library and said. "Reading is a really important to keep the mind active," she said.
Now she’s taking her message of adult literacy to the streets.
White walked to coffee shops, cafes, senior centers and homes last week handing out copies of "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pouch. The nonfiction memoir is this year’s featured selection for the One Book, One Community program, a nationwide literacy campaign whose goal is to engage community members in discussion based on their shared reading experience, White said.
Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who was asked to address an audience after he had been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic cancer. The lecture he gave, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," was about the importance of overcoming obstacles and living in the moment, according to the publisher. It was later expanded into a popular book.
The library selected "The Last Lecture" because it is poignant and funny, White said. "I think the book is relevant to people everywhere," she explained. "The important thing here is what it encourages people to think about."
The Park City Library plans to hold discussions groups July 17 at 3:30 p.m. at the Park City Library and Aug. 7 at 1:45 p.m. at the Park City Senior Center.
White said Mary McGroy, a columnist for the Washington Post, aptly summarized the importance of the One Book, One Community program. "The idea is that the city that opens the same book closes it in greater harmony," the columnist wrote.
"We’re just running, running, running," she said. "When we read something we can have an appreciation of another place or the beauty of our own language. It gets you to ask yourself, ‘What would you say in your last lecture?’"
In addition to the 10 copies White distributed around town, the library has copies of the book in large print, Spanish, CD, cassette and standard formats.
Box or Sidebar:
Discussion questions for One Book, One Community:
1. "Under the guise of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children. If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer, so I lectured."
One of the touching things about Randy Pausch’s situation is his desire to pass on a legacy to his children, who are very young, and will be growing up without him. This quote describes his efforts to define something unique about himself. How do we find the uniqueness in ourselves? Not just the wise words we want to pass along, but who we really are. 2. "…When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering you to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care." How many times has a friend or coworker given us that well-placed kick at the right time and made us think? What is some criticism you received that made you want to grow and change? 3. "Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted." We are a very self-centered society, accustomed to believing we can control our lives through better choices, time management, multi-tasking, etc. Think of a time when you didn’t get what you wanted and what you learned from it.
Top 5 circulating fiction titles at the Kimball Junction Branch in 2008 (print):
1. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini 2. "Plum Lucky"by Janet Evanovich 3. "You’ve Been Warned" by James Patterson and Howard Roughan 4. "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen 5. "Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham
Top 5 circulating non-fiction titles at the Kimball Junction Branch in 2008 (print):
1. "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert 2. "My Brother’s Voice" by Stephen Nasser 3. "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls 4. "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson 5. "Parenting With Love and Logic" by Foster Cline
Park City Library’s "bestseller" list, top 5 circulating books in the past year: 1. "Water for Elephants" by Sarah Gruen (last year’s One Book) 2. "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Husseini 3. "The Kite Runner" also by Khaled Husseini 4. "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer 5. "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson