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From an article in our local newspaper today:

A report prepared by the National Endowment for the Arts with data collected by the Census Bureau in 2002 shows that reading of literary works--novels, short stories, poetry and plays--is declining among all adults, regardless of age, race, ethnicity and income, with the least interest in reading reported among the youngest segments of American society. Only 46.7 percent of adults say they are reading literature, compared with 56.9 percent two decades ago. Nearly two-thirds of men don't read at all.

That last sentence surprises me not at all. I think it is tragic, but unfortunately it doesn't surprise me. Zteen is a reader. Only ONE out of his friends EVER reads anything that isn't strictly required by school. Once they are finished with school, I don't think that many of them will ever pick up a book again.

But that whole reading thing? When does the non-reading start? As I watched the McBaby digging in the dirt in the sandpile in the back yard, I realized that it started earlier than I realized. She has the luxury of digging pretty much however long she is happy to dig. She does watch videos (ask me how many times we've watched Pooh in the past 3 weeks!), but that's only a part of what is generally a very relaxed day for her. We go "to errands" (which she loves), we go visit folks, we stay home and do laundry. But nothing is particularly regimented or focused.

I compare this to Zteen's toddlerhood--which was spent in daycare. (I didn't become a SAHM until he was in the 1st grade!) Every moment of his day was more regimented--it HAD to be. And he was in a really good center--a place with a huge playground, shaded with old trees, where the kids played outside for long periods of time. (That's why we picked it!) But it was daycare. It's very existence depended upon regimentation and busy-ness. Keep 'em busy, keep 'em moving. Look here! Do that! See this!

That sets habits in place that carryover into our current school mindset. Hurry! Finish your homework in the car on the way to soccer. We've got Scouts tomorrow, and something else every other night of the week. When are kids supposed to have the TIME to read???

I know, I know. TV has much to do with it. And so do video games. And I know they suck up hours and hours of time that could be spent on reading. But if you've never gotten used to the TIME it takes to read, and the stillness it takes, how can you ever choose it over something as bright and shiny as a game or a tv show?


hushup. that's too blasted depressin.

In Joseph Pieper's _Leisure: The Basis of Culture_ he has some keen observations regarding our culture's inability to appreciate leisure as a lifestyle. A culture which doesn't value leisure can't learn. I'm the worst sinner in this regard: I find it impossible to relax unless I'm doing something 'productive,' and for some reason spending time with family and reading don't count as productive.

Those damnable Puritans probably had something to do with it. Couldn't be my fault.

Jamie, I very much USED to be that way, but as I have grown older, I have learned to enjoy my leisure time much more, and to trade off many more "useful" things for it.

But it is sometimes difficult, and everyone falls into the trap. Even for stay at home moms like me, there is some sort of infernal competition about how much we do with and for our kids, our church, our schools, blah, blah, blah. It is a badge of honor in these rushed days to eat in the car, never have a lazy moment, never just *be*. When I hear another mom talking about it, I immediately tense up and start thinking, "What else should I be doing????" And I feel my eyes begin to dart about looking for yet another project.

I have to force myself to STOP. Remind myself I already do a lot. That I cannot do it all (regardless of my foolish pride which continues to whisper in my ear, "Yes, you can. Yes, you can....")



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This page contains a single entry by MamaT published on July 25, 2004 9:25 PM.

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