Dana Gioia on the personal benefits of reading:
DANA GIOIA: Oh, it is overwhelming. Readers are four times more likely to do volunteer and charity work. The poorest group of Americans who read do twice as much volunteer work and charity work as the richest Americans who don’t read. So it says that reading is something that has more to do with literature and culture; it’s a building block of civic life and democracy.
JEFFREY BROWN: And why does it happen or when does it start? Is this a phenomenon of young people?
DANA GIOIA: Well, in some ways, it’s a family behavior. I mean, people whose parents read to them or their grandparents read to them are more likely to read as adults. What’s interesting is sometimes if the parents don’t read to them, but the parents say, “Get out of here, I’m reading a book,” they see their parents read, the kids read more, too. It’s part of the family culture.
But whatever the reasons, reading somehow awakens something in a kid’s life that makes them take their own life more seriously and other people’s lives more seriously. I mean, for example, readers — believe it or not — exercise at twice the level of nonreaders.
More data comes from the 2004 Reading at Risk report (here’s the PDF if you want ). Isn’t it ironic by the way that the report about reading is basically unreadable on portable reading devices. Why oh why couldn’t they have put it in html format?
Related: 2 recent posts on TeleRead: Book clubs, ebooks and social networking: Will librarything become the next amazon.com? and embarrassingly bad books.