Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blogs: The Drive-Thru Book

Do you read? I suppose you do because you are reading this blog right now. How about books? It seems that many Brazillians aren't reading anymore. A 2000 survey indicated hat 25% of Brazillians over 15 years of age were functionally illiterate - meaning they can read a road sign but cannot read for comprehension ("A Nation of Non-readers", The Economist, Mar 16, 2006). Another survey reports that the average Brazillian spends 5.2 hours a week in a book.

5.2 hours a week...that actually seems like a lot of time, at least when I think of many Americans I know. How many Americans come home from work and spend an hour a night reading a book? Don't most Americans spend about 5.2 hours a night watching TV? Anyway, back to the question - Do you read?

I just got off the phone with a good friend who is a professor at a community college in Ohio. I was mentioning this blog to him and he told me that part of the requirments for his students are to be fulfilled by creating and updating a blog. Just a few years ago the word 'blog' didn't even exist! Now blogs are used for classroom work in our schools! We truly are an evolving society. So, we read blogs but not books. Studies are beginning to show a shift away from reading for comprehension in America. Just like what is happening in Brazil. Our young people can surely read, but how long until we have a high percentage of functionally illiterate people?

The previously cited article indicates that in Brazil people just don't want to read. Like any skill, the less one practices the rustier one becomes. What can we do about this? We accomodate those who don't like to read with short internet articles, podcasts, blogs, and the like. We are becoming conditioned to get our info in short bites. A story that takes dozens of pages to properly develop, such as most novels, is no longer worth one's time. The blog has become the drive-thru book.

We probably aren't on a runaway train just yet. But it is leaving the station and picking up speed. Even prestigeuous schools like Harvard are moving away from textbooks and using more oral communication techniques like case studies. Role playing is a good way to teach so it is no surprise top notch acedemic institutions are moving the direction their students have already went.

I'm interested to see what becomes of our country in the next few decades. What place will books have in 25 years? Will they fall victim to termites as our libraries rot away as has already happened with the National Library of Brazil? Will the blog continue to be the new book?

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