Readers Rule!

Flipping through the April 25th edition of People magazine, I came across a blurb about “The Hunger Games” entitled “Nerds Rule.” The movie had just hit the theatres a couple of weeks earlier; their PR was everywhere and here was, yet, again, more commentary. This had an interesting twist, though. Read on:

“Rejoice bookworms, for we are the most powerful people in Hollywood. Mega-hit series like “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” make studios ever more reliant on readers to know what will sell, which means they have to listen to fans. In the end, Hollywood has a simple choice, really: Surrender or die.”

Point taken. These movies were made because of the popularity of the books upon which they were based, and they’ve generated billions of dollars in profits. So, think about that. The shear number of copies sold had to have been enough to inform Hollywood producers, and their financial backers that a blockbuster production would almost certainly be successful. But . . . are there really that many bookworms out there?

In 2009, an American agency, The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), published the results of their most recent survey of the reading habits of Americans: Reading on the Rise. For the first time in 25 years, they had figures to show that the amount of literature read in the United States had increased; the actual number of people reading literature had increased, and the fastest growing segment of readers was young adults, aged 18 – 24. And, that demographic, co-incidentally, is the same demographic responsible for the bulk of movie ticket purchases (stats here).

In Canada, in 2003, the Association for Canadian Studies was commissioned to poll Canadians on their reading habits in the six months prior to the survey. Only 15% of respondents had not read any books at all in the previous six months. Among 18 – 29 year-olds, only 14% had not read a book in that time period but a whopping 44% had read from 1 – 5 books. For the full story, click here.

It’s great to see that literacy initiatives are succeeding; that engaging novels are being written, and that a love of reading is being nurtured.  As the NEA concluded in their report: “Cultural decline is not inevitable.”

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