"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Our People Are Not Reading Our Literature, Part IV



Our People Are Not Reading Our Literature, Part IV
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For previous entries in this series:

I was just going through some papers the other day and realized when my I came across my copy of the National Endowment for the Arts Reading at Risk Survey and Report, that I never concluded our series “Our People Are Not Reading Our Literature.”

Those of you who are new to our blog, this series focused on the literature-reading rates of the nation.

In looking at the Summary and Conclusion of the NEA survey, they quote Myron Magnet's essay “What use is literature?”: “date are meaningless until we can articulate a story that makes sense out of them, and literature makes sense out of the data of human experience.”

So who is reading literature nowadays?

Looking at the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), it shows that many people “enjoy literature.” It is novels, short stories, poetry, and plays that get the most attention from those 18 or older (that's 47 percent or about 96 million people).

As you may remember, poetry had a dismal popularity among readers. As a personal reflexion, I also find this everywhere I go. People don't know who are Chicano(a) poets are and if they do, it is usually veterano(as) like Lalo Delgado, Alurista, and others, which may say something about what the masses like and what they do not. I find Chicano(a) writers, especially the poets, are into who the other Chicano(a) poets are and what they are writing, however, outside of that group, it gets pretty depressing.

Though the survey showed that those 18 and under are least likely to read poetry, and those ages 18 to 23 are least likely to read any literature, the survey does point out how the popularity of the “slam” has increased poetry appreciation in the younger age groups.

Poetry, the survey shows, is about as popular as “attendance at jazz performances or at classical music events” and about “as many people read plays as attend life opera or ballet.”

As for novels and short stories, they have the largest audience: “About one in six literary readers (17%) read 12 or more books in 2002.”

As for literary events, 1 in 10 (9%) “listened to live or recorded reading of novels or books, and about 6% listened to poetry readings during the survey year.” Now this survey is 2002, and much has happened since then with the IPAD, Nook, and other readers. Furthermore, the MP3 is used more nowadays, so people may listen to recorded book more. As least for Amazon, electronic books have outsold hardback books, but have not yet outsold paperbacks.

Creative writing is still occurring but at small numbers. About 7% of the population wrote creative works of their own, and 9% “used the Internet to learn about, read, or discuss topics related to literature.

Factors in Participation

In looking at factors and participation, as always, those with more eduction are much more likely to read than those with low eduction. The survey found reading rates for women where higher than those of men. Furthermore, reading and listening to literature participation rates are higher for urban dwellers and those with higher incomes.

Whites have the highest participation rates of any ethnic group in “almost all literature-related activities.” The exception was the high participation of African-Americans listening to poetry.

In looking at age groups, the older age groups seem to enjoy literate at almost equal rates, but it was the youngest age groups where participation was the lowest.

Regionally, literature participation is “most popular in the West...” It is followed by the Northwest, the Midwest, and then the South.

The survey does not show clearly how much TV watching is an influence on how much a person reads, however, it did show that a person who watches 4 hours or more of TV a day “had negative impact on the chances of someone reading 12 books or more per year.” Furthermore, watching TV appears to have no positive impact on people reading more.

In general, literary readers watched less TV then non-readers, the different is slight.

Literary rates and levels do affect literature participation, but the survey stated that more research is needed.

Participation in Other Arts Activities

People, especially kids, attending art museum and performing arts events, “ are significant indicators offer literature participation, even adjusting for education, ethnicity, race, and other factors.”

Bueno, we will go the summary of “Trends in Literature Participation” next week. In the mean time, read, attend plays, take your kids out to these things, and read some more.!

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Events tonight

Martin Espeda reads this afternoon
Thursday, April 7, 1pm. Poet Martin Espada reading at Doña Ana Community College in Las Cruces, NM. Contact Denise Chávez, bbf@borderbookfestival.com for information.

Carolina Monsivais reads tonight 
Thursday, April 7, 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM. El Paso Community College Celebrates Poetry Month with a Reading Featuring Todd McKinney and Carolina Monsiváis. EPCC ASC Boardroom, 9050 Viscount Blvd. Free – Public is Invited. Sponsored by EPCC Spring Arts Festival 

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Also, make sure to check out the Border Book Festival schedule events as Sandra Cisneros and Martin Espada among other are in town. Check out schedule. 

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