From literature to Twitter: The death of the reader?

The explosion of the Internet has vastly increased our exposure to text and by most measures, literacy would appear to be in a healthier state than ever.  However, some share Philip Roth’s concern over the long-term health of “people who read seriously and consistently.” He warned that “every year 70 readers die, and only two are replaced.” Perhaps the stress should be on reading ‘seriously’: young people may be reading more than before, but by far the largest spike comes from young adult fiction, with no strong evidence they are moving on to more serious material.  Increasingly schools and public bodies take an instrumental approach to reading – extolling its virtues not in terms of self-actualisation, development of thought or increased knowledge, but because of its purported benefits to mental health and IQ.  Has the legacy of the millennial Reading Wars been that we focus too much on reading as a technical skill rather than on what we read?

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