We have become a nation of non-readers. Well, not totally or I wouldn’t be writing about one of my favorite authors, Mary Roach. Mary combines science and humor. Think about Albert Einstein’s hair, especially after you’ve read anything Roach!
I can’t say I’ve read everything Mary’s written as I imagine piles of scribbles and travel brochures in her office that never made it to the publishers’ deck. At any rate my favorite so far is My Planet, a collection of short stories about everyday situations that she makes hilarious. Seriously I was practically rolling on the floor. From 42 Minutes and Holding to Frequent Flierr#*! I feel that I increased my health level at least 10% for all the laughing I did. She has a unique way with words and a delightful sense of humor. Many of the stories are of life with her husband Ed. She and Ed, “like any normal couple refuse to accept each others’ differences and do whatever they can to annoy the other person.” I guess you’ll just have to read it to appreciate it.
My next favorite is Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. This isn’t only about long range space travel but also many interesting and humorous facts of the development of space exploration. I found it a real page turner. Not so with some of her other titles but I have yet to read Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal. At any rate I recommend them for a fun read and you may just learn something. She has a bit of the teacher in her.
But back to the beginning: I can say I work with people who have admitted to not reading anything since high school. Here are some interesting facts about our illiterate society.
-14% of adults are illiterate
-21% read below 5th grade level
-75% of food stamp recipients read at the lowest level of literacy
-children born to illiterate parents have a greater chance of being illiterate.
Here’s another way to view our literacy problem:
-at a table of 4, one cannot read
-one out of seven lacks prose literacy, the ability to read and understand continuous text like newspapers or instruction manuals
-one out of nine lacks document literacy, the ability to understand and use texts such as maps, food or drug labels, applications or payroll forms
-one out of nine lack quantitative literacy, the ability to perform tasks like balance a checkbook or calculate a tip.
Well, I think it’s very sad. I wish we could do better.