Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: TL;DR Hits a Book Club

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Aisha Sultan: TL;DR Hits a Book Club

Article excerpt

I am embarrassed of my number.

I don't like what it suggests about me. I'm willing to confess it publicly in hopes that I will make better choices moving forward. The details are blurry now, but I'm fairly certain I read less than 10 books last year.

This puts me below the average for women, who read 14 books in the previous 12 months, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study. It also puts me below average for college-educated people, who read 17. The median number of books read annually is far lower; about five among all American adults. This means half of all adults read less than five books in a year. But for someone who grew up a bookworm, consuming at least 50 books a year for most of my youth and adolescence, this less-than-10 realization is shameful. Oddly, I'm reading all the time blog posts, pithy tweets, essays on my phone while I wait in lines.

It's byte-sized reading. It's qualitatively different from the immersive, sustained experience of reading a novel or work of nonfiction.

I'm not the only book lover who has strayed.

Nicole Thompson, of O'Fallon, Mo., started a book club about six years ago. When the club started most people would read the book, she said.

"Over the years, only a couple of people would read the book," Thompson said. One month, no one finished the book. About six months ago, she allowed the group to pick articles or blog posts instead of full-length novels.

Like her, the members are time-starved working mothers. Allowing the option for articles made it easier to get together during the hectic months of November and December.

"We're not opposed to doing books" in the book club, she said. "It's just that people have less time."

Parents consistently say they want to raise readers. We worry about the trends that show boys and teens read less than they did before smartphones and digital distractions monopolized leisure time. The number of American children who say they love reading books for fun has dropped nearly 10 percent in the last four years, according to Scholastic's 2015 Kids and Family Reading Report. …

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