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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Why people read less and less

The traditional image of the average citizen who went every week to a Library Services, not necessarily for study reasons, but for the pleasure of reading, for the pleasure of reading, is being lost. This was the case of one of my grandmothers, a simple woman with great curiosity, who read every latest novel with relish for 25 years. It is sad to see so many empty libraries.

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:24:00 +0000 Published in The Confidential

It used to be customary to give books and the Three Wise Men would put them in the shoes of children who had been very good. Now, on the other hand, the preferred gift is a video game,

Many people no longer read daily as they used to: in the subway, in bed until sleep comes, at train stations and in the waiting rooms of the doctor's enquiry . Instead, we now wait in a leisurely fashion, absorbed in our cell phones or tablets.

Today some of the people who have the good habit of exercising physically in a gym, do it to worship the body, which contrasts with the oblivion of the Library Services as an area for the cultivation of the mind. I suggest that gyms incorporate a Library Services, like those of classical Greece.

The latest report of reading in Spain (2017) is very worrying: 40 percent of Spaniards do not read books. The status mainly affects teenagers; to get them to read a book teachers often resort to making it a compulsory task that is also part of the exam.

Why is the habit of associating books with leisure and waiting disappearing? Because it is more convenient to enter digital screens and platforms: they offer a wide range of effortless entertainment. Also because of the influence of those audiobooks that make reading "unnecessary".

Some teenagers think that, since we currently have many sources of information through the Internet, books are not necessary. They ignore the fact that reading a book continuously, calmly and reflectively gives us much more than reading fleeting and trivial messages on the "mobile".

The acquisition of knowledge through reading books has a unique value, because it keeps the mind active and stimulates various cognitive processes. For this reason, it has been highly praised by many great writers.

For the poet Wislawa Szymborska, the magic of literature lies in the fact that it makes us (at least for a while) freer. "Reading books is the most glorious pastime mankind has devised."

Mario Vargas Llosa, in his speech of reception of the award Nobel, "Elogio de la literatura y la ficción" read the following:

"I learned to read at the age of five (...). It is the most important thing that ever happened to me. Almost seventy years later I remember with clarity how that magic, translating the words of books into images, enriched my life, breaking the barriers of time and space and allowing me to travel with Captain Nemo twenty thousand leagues under the sea (...). Reading turned dreams into life and life into dreams and put the universe of literature within reach of the little piece of man that I was". 

Are there good arguments to "redeem" stubborn non-readers?

One of them is the criticism they usually receive from humorists. For example, Antonio Mingote draws a father advising his young son: "First you have to become a useful man, with a careful Education , solid training and firm principles. Then you will be able to read some books".


Other arguments in favor of reading books: it stimulates the report and imagination and increases vocabulary. By keeping the brain active, financial aid helps prevent Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases; it develops analytical thinking, especially with crime and mystery novels; it enhances concentration and empathy; it favors oral and written expression. All this contributes decisively to school success.

Some people argue that it is not true that we read less today, since the paper book is being replaced with advantage by the attractive e-book. Sociology professor Alejandro Navas is not of the same opinion: "The e-book had a dazzling launch, so that we old readers seemed to be an endangered species. The waters are calming down, and the spread of the e-book has stagnated. It looks like we have Gutenberg for a while. Fortunately.

I would add that whoever does not have the habit of reading paper books will hardly acquire it in e-books.

Will the reasons given in favor of reading serve to attract new readers? I do not rule out that the time will soon come for a publication with this degree scroll: "Converted Readers".