time to focus on readers, not books

The recent NYT op-ed, "The Country That Stopped Reading", will interest all of us on the “What is a Reader?” project–particularly its reflection on the dangers of substituting informational for literary texts in schools. But I was particularly struck by the writer David Toscana’s comment about a failed literacy campaign that “focused on the book instead of the reader” and consequently produced warehouses of unread reading materials but no new readers. Are we in danger of doing the same when we focus our (many) debates about reading on how people read (kindles versus paper books, etc. etc.) and not what or why they read–or, most important of all, who reads and who doesn’t?

About Jennifer Summit

I am a professor of English at Stanford University. My research interests generally focus on the medieval and early modern periods, but I've become increasingly interested in how we might use some of the methodologies and questions that have been generated by the academic subfields of the history of reading and the book to understand the uses of literacy today.
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