Happy Friday, everyone! As I sought a topic on which to write today, I’m pleased to see the fine people of Renaissance Learning have done a study on the reading habits of kids over the years and the fine people of GalleyCat reported on it. I’m looking forward to checking out the study in more depth, but from the infographic it’s interesting to compare the books mentioned to those I read. I read the high school Top 3 from 1907 and 1964, but interestingly, I was only assigned one of the 2012 books, and I’ve never even heard of two of the 1923 titles, nor read the third. Of the most read titles by grade at bottom, I apparently missed the most common titles of 2nd to 8th grades, but the other 3 are among my favorite books of all time. From the summary, I’m very pleased to see the dreadful Silas Marner appears to have fallen from favor in the last decade. Did you know Silas Marner was a linen weaver in Raveloe who wove linen near a stone pit? I do, even though it’s been 15 or so years since I read it, because there is a chapter early on that is so repetitive that the information is permanently burned into my brain. Man, I hated that book.
I’m very interested in the study’s finding that text complexity has reduced over the years. It makes me wonder if it’s deliberate selection of less complex books or if books themselves are evolving in that direction. The latter makes a sort of sense to me, if only because our vernacular does seem to get increasingly informal which has to impact the style in which books are written, even if they’re aiming for a high literary vocabulary. If the bar is set at Oh Em Gee, how high do you really need to aim to sound lofty? Linguistic progress seems to erode rules, but does it simultaneously create enough new ones to keep the vernacular as complicated as ever? Is the level of our discourse actually changing on a linguistic level, or is this like all those other ways that we perceive change as negative even when it’s not? If anyone has any thoughts or expertise on the matter, I’d be very interested to hear in the comments.