While driving in my car yesterday, I started thinking about the NBA Finals - not exactly about the basketball, but more about how the NBA gives back to the community. They call it NBA Cares and one of the foundations they support is Reading is Fundamental. The program is great and accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do - providing more books for kids and encouraging them to read.
RIF addresses one problem and that is getting more kids to read. They do it by making reading fun, which is great. Even as a kid, I was nerdy and wanted to read - when my dad came back from trips, most of the time our gifts were a book from the country he was coming back from. It also didn't hurt that at Christmas more than half of our presents were always education related - and we liked it!
But back to the reading issue... I think (and have no statistics to back it up) that most people probably don't read enough. So how does one measure reading "enough"? That's tough, because it's probably more of a subjective number of books read per month, or books/articles/essays read per month, etc. But it can never hurt to push more reading - that is, with better reading comprehension.
So there is a second problem I have with reading levels in general - it's great to get more people to read, but what if their comprehension levels are not adequate? This is an issue with kids sometimes, and is blogged about here and here, but I wonder how big of an issue it is with adults too? In the United States, our literacy rate is above 99% as noted in the CIA World Factbook. It'd be interesting if there were a way to have a literacy comprehension rate, though that would also probably require more subjective numbers similar to the reading rates I mentioned earlier.
So how do we get more people to read and have better comprehension? It certainly doesn't hurt to have fun books like Harry Potter 7. It also wouldn't hurt if books were cheaper (though this relates more to publishers difficulties in finding quality, high selling books to publish). It may even be smart to have automatic enrollment programs at libraries - that is, being able to use a driver's license or school ID to automatically check out books. These ideas improve access to books - but how to improve comprehension? That's another longwinded topic, concerning our education system and society, and it's best saved for another day.
Finally, WHY do I think more people need to read and have better comprehension? I can't back it up with statistics (and usually reading statistics can be dubious) but I feel that reading helps people develop their general knowledge, broaden their point of view, and help them in other areas of life. For example, I read a lot of business, psychology, and policy books - many of them teach me lessons that I never would have thought about, and I apply them to my life. And another benefit of reading is that it's unique exercise for your mind - it keeps you fresh and I think helps develop and stimulate your imagination. Bottom line - more reading doesn't hurt. Read on!