By Heather Mullinix
One of my favorite pastimes is curling up on a cool fall evening under a mountain of blankets and reading a good book. Whether it be a mystery, suspense, a thriller or historical fiction, I love to get lost in the story.
Of course, reading plays a big part in my day-to-day life. I have to read a lot for work, but it’s not always what I’d prefer to read, so I try to make sure I get some pleasure reading in there, whether its great literary works, chick lit, comic books, or even just the feature section of a newspaper.
With this in mind, you can imagine my shock when I read of a poll by the Pew Research Center that found 19 percent of all Americans had not read a single book in the past 12 months. That’s one in five Americans that didn’t read for work, for school, for research or for the simple joy of reading in the past year.
My reading habits change over time, and my reading tastes do, too. Right now, I’m still on a historical fiction kick, but I’ve moved beyond medieval England to the American Civil War right on into the 20th Century. A few years ago, I was on a mystery and crime thriller kick, devouring books from authors such as Patricia Cornwell and Agatha Christie. And though I make reading a regular leisure activity, I’m hardly among some of the most voracious readers found in the survey. The average American reads 17 books per year, with some readers reporting upwards of 50 books consumed in a year. I’m probably at about 12 to 13 books per year.
Those heavy readers are reading their books in a variety of formats, from traditional paper (my personal favorite) to the new e-readers. They also are more likely to listen to audiobooks. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been able to listen to someone reading a book to me. I’d rather read it for myself and be able to go back and reread passages that were especially entertaining, profound or just plain cool.
Typically, older adults tend to be the biggest readers. The research suggests that they might have more time on their hands once the youngsters have grown up and flown the nest, than their younger counterparts. In fact, my age group, 30 to 49, was among the lowest readers, with an average of 14 books read per year.
But what I found most interesting in the survey was that teens were right up there with top readers, going through 18 books a year. Way to go, teens! I’m sure some of that reading has to do with school work, with kids finding their way through those perennial school texts of The Scarlett Letter, Of Mice and Men and Macbeth.
Of course, people read for many different reasons, and the Pew study confirmed that, with a quarter of those who read saying they enjoyed learning and gaining new knowledge. Reading is great for that, but I fall into the 12 percent that like the entertainment value and love to see how an author develops their plot and characters.
Next week, the Art Circle Public Library will celebrate Teen Read Week 2012 for children 12 to 19 years old. There will be workshops with arts and crafts activities and the teens will create a video dressed as their favorite characters. And, of course, there will be a reading contest. Call the library, 484-6790, if you’d like to participate.
Those of us who are no longer teens can also check out the library for help finding new authors and finding new favorite characters.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.