The day after Thanksgiving finds me in a contemplative mood, with much for which to express gratitude. Family, friends, shelter, warmth, food, and freedom should never be taken for granted as I tend to do throughout most of the year. An e-mail newsletter from James Ray, speaker and author of The Science of Success stated that gratitude is the mother of creative vibrations, that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that "you are the prophet." In other words, we are in charge of our lives, and our gratitude has a lot to do with creating a positive outcome.
I have believed this to be true for a long time, maybe most of my life. Even though I have seen the evidence that it works, it's still easy to let difficulties and set backs spawn negative emotions, doubt, and blame. Thanksgiving is a good time to get me thinking of the many things I have, and to realize that it is in my power to create more good things by living a grateful life. I can walk, I am in good health, I have eyesight, in fact all my senses are still working, and I have the ability to read. For those things I give thanks everyday.
In another e-news letter I received today from Dan Poynter, author and publishing guru, I was made aware of statistics about the decline of reading in today's world. An article in USA Today titled, Americans close the book on recreational reading, gives statistics backing up the claim that Americans of all ages are reading less and less as the years go by. Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, Dana Gioia is quoted, "We've got a public culture which is almost entirely commercial- and novelty-driven." He calls the decline "probably the single most important social issue in the United States today."
I am concerned. I treasure books as a means to expand my mind and horizons. Those who don't, I believe, are missing something important. The question is, "What can be done?" Gioia suggests that the media has the power to make a difference. He cites cases where a brief mention of a book or a poet in a movie or TV show resulted in a spike in sales of that work. "I guarantee that if we could expand the coverage in the media, you'd immediately see people responding," he says. "People are looking for things to do that aren't dumb. I don't think that Americans are dumber than before, but I do believe our public culture is."
I ask myself what I can do, and in my mind I hear, "Let's write more news items about books and authors. Let's visit our schools and entice students to become readers and writers." Recently, members of two local writers groups got together to present an assembly to our high school students. We were well received and thanked afterward by the kids. Maybe we could do more of these programs. Working with our teachers from elementary through college to conduct presentations and seminars in the classroom might be a small start in the right direction. I'd not only like to see more kids enjoying recreational reading, but also taking an interest in writing. I haven't looked for any studies to prove this suspicion, but it seems to me that a large percentage of authors today are over 50 years of age. It would be great to see more young people joining the ranks.
I'd like to hear more suggestions for what we, the ordinary citizens, might do to increase an interest in books.