Great article by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times today on how Obama's love of reading has shaped his values and his life: From Books, New President Found Voice
Lots of interesting comments posted on the Times' site as well. Here's mine:
"Clearly, Obama is already reading all the right books.
What I fervently hope is that he will convey his passion for reading to America's youth, and apply his gifts and resources to helping the next generation discover, re-discover or maintain a love of reading.
Obama is a stunning example of the direct relationship between reading skills and our ability to participate in the world with confidence as informed citizens, communicate effectively, succeed in our chosen career, enjoy rewarding relationships, achieve personal fulfillment and contribute to our society.
But America now ranks a distant last among eighteen nations with respect to literacy levels for high school graduates, and it is estimated that illiteracy costs businesses and taxpayers $20 billion each year.
Obama knows that our founders, living as they did in an age when the printed word was the primary means of communication, placed a high emphasis on protecting the “marketplace of ideas” so that public discourse could flourish. Today, that discourse is predominantly one-way... we “receive” information from our television sets, radios, computers, and iPods. Large media corporations pay vast sums of money to explore new ways in which we can be collectively massaged toward a certain purchase or perspective. And the more we sit and stare at the screen, the more we turn our back on the kind of thoughtful reasoning that interaction with the written word promotes…and, the more mute we become.
It’s abundantly clear that the digital age has radically altered the entertainment as well as the learning landscape for today’s young people. But according to the National Council on Teachers of English (NCTE), “in order to participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020 and harness the power of technology and all its implications, we will need powerful literacy skills – at levels currently achieved by only a small percentage of the population.” It would seem that our collective health, our capacity for reason, our very future as a connected, contributive society – and that of our fragile planet – depends upon it.
I pray that Obama shares the dream of reestablishing a society of readers- and by extension, a society of thoughtful, engaged citizens who play an active, positive role in their community and their world. I hope he makes it a priority to help kids access the innate joy and empowerment in exploring the ideas and insights of great writers, thinkers, artists, and philosophers, so that they can actually participate in their future world with active voices, informed opinions and the real hope of being heard.