Food & Fitness

Poll: How Much Do You Read?

Last month’s poll

In March, we looked at how much we integrate activity into our daily lives. This did not include going to the gym; this was about lifestyle activity. Out of 20 voters: 10% get 15 minutes or less “lifestyle activity” each day, 50% get about 30 minutes, and 40% get an hour or more! It’s nice to see that so many people incorporate exercise into their daily living.

This month’s poll

One of the classes that I took this past semester was called Revolutions in Communication. Besides being taught by one of my favourite professors, it was an excellent class in which we looked at how communication has evolved over time. We studied oral societies, the phenomena of fairy tales, the effects of reading and technology on the brain, the impact of “the screen” (television and computers), and the evolution of journalism.

One of the things we learned, which really stood out for me, was how much reading does for us. Literacy rates have declined drastically over the years, resulting in a severe degradation of mental capacity. Countless studies have shown, time and again, that plopping a child in front of a screen is not the same as giving them a book to read- even if the show is a “learning” program such as Sesame Street, and even if the book isn’t great writing, such as Twilight (don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the story just as much as the next pre-teen girl. But you’ve got to admit that the writing is, well, awful).

“Back in the day” when I was a child, oh so many years ago (tehe), we didn’t own a computer. We had a VCR, but we didn’t have cable. The sistertraveller and I read books. And we played in cardboard boxes (because toys are never as much fun as the cardboard box that the toy comes in!). I don’t remember using a computer before I was in grade 5, and even when I started using one, I spent far more of my time reading books than on the computer. I believe that the majority of my computer-time was spent on homework or writing my own fictional stories rather than surfing the net, too.

But that’s not what happens these days. Children grow up with DVD players built into their cars. They’re taught how to type on a keyboard at the same time as they learn how to write letters. That’s how they get to university and can’t string together words to make a coherent sentence. Televisions and computers serve as babysitters for children. Now, I remember taking care of Vic and Ale when I was living as an au pair in Spain, so don’t get me wrong: parents, I completely understand that you would want a break from taking care of your kids. I only had to look after those girls for three months and I was dead exhausted by the end of it. Combine the unending supply of energy that children have with the sugar that we feed them and it’s no wonder that parents are setting their children in front of a screen. But it’s a real pity that children aren’t reading books instead.

As a blogger, I obviously feel as though the Internet is a wonderful creation and that there’s a lot to learn. But at the same time, we read differently on a screen than we do from a book. We skim much more when we read off of a screen, and we don’t learn any new (or rare) words. Bottom line: the screen is great, but kids should learn how to read books and spend the majority of their time with books as they grow up; screens should simply be a supplement to their learning, not a replacement for books.

I’ve been spending most of the past year reading books for university (or health-related books), but within the past couple months, I’ve started reading novels again before bed. It’s a nice way to stimulate the brain and to unwind at the end of a long day. I’ve sincerely missed reading novels.

How often do you read books (including fiction and non-fiction)? Do you think the screen is an adequate replacement for books? Are you as horrified as I am about the serious lack of reading that kids do these days? Answer the poll and elaborate in the comments!

[polldaddy poll=3024999]

We’ll return to our Budgeting mini-series on Monday with Part Four: Eating Healthy on a Budget!


  1. Kenz @ All The Weigh

    I read everyday too. I finished a decent book last night, but I’m looking forward to reading something more exciting today. I read because I like it..there’s just something about sitting with a book on my balcony or when I’m at the beach (or anywhere really) that makes me relax. I’m a big fan and proponent of reading.

  2. cathy

    Every day. Blogs, newspapers, books, books, books. I’m a readaholic, an I hope that it’s an addiction that I successfully pass down to my kids. So far, so good. My kids cry if they don’t get read to by both mom AND dad at night. And fortunately, our cars don’t have DVD players in them (though I’m sure if we buy again it won’t be avoidable – it’s hard to get a newer car without on these days). They are perfectly content listening to books on CD as we go on long road trips. I pity the children who aren’t exposed to the divine pleasure of reading a good book on a regular basis!

  3. Holly

    I am REALLY making a conscious effort to read more. I am trying to read at least everyday on my lunch break, so that’s something. I’ve never been a huge reader, but there is nothing like the feeling of completing a book! I feel so enriched, as cheesy as that sounds. For me, the key is finding something I can’t put down – like with men, I’m truly picky when it comes to books. šŸ˜‰ I just started “The Shack” this week and absolutely love it so far.

  4. Sagan Morrow

    Kenz- It’s SO relaxing! There’s something special about escaping into a book.

    Cathy- Excellent, I approve of readaholics šŸ˜€ That’s wonderful that you read to you children every night. Bringing your kids up without HFCS AND with books… YOU are such a good role model for parenting!

    Holly- Better to be picky than to settle, methinks šŸ˜‰

  5. Em

    I am so excited to be finished with papers and exams so that I can read non-school things again! I spend almost every day reading (and then writing about it) but it’s not the same when it’s done for class.

  6. Pubsgal

    Reading is the ultimate comfort and escapism for me. I love reading, as in “I love to breathe.” šŸ˜‰ I read more fiction than non-fiction, but I’ll pretty much read anything. I’ll read the back of a shampoo bottle rather than read nothing at all. I prefer book format, and I don’t think reading on a screen is the same. There’s just something about a book for me. There used to be a temporary branch of the city’s public library a few steps from the office I work at now, and when I’d get stressed, I’d just wander over there and the smell of the stacks would calm me down.

    I don’t know about other districts, but reading is alive and well in our schools, even with cuts in library staffing. (Grrr.) I’ve been really happy with our school district’s emphasis of every kid being a reader and writer. Starting in Kindergarten, their homework is to do some reading every night (either with a parent or, as they get older, on their own). They write and illustrate books in school, and their classes even have “publishing parties” when the kids are done with their books.

    I think that, despite their love of TV and computers, reading has definitely rubbed off on our kids. (My husband reads, too; unlike me, he’s more of a screen reader than a book reader.) They feel seriously cheated if either my husband or I don’t read to them before they go to sleep, and they love going to the library and book stores. I think part of it is that since they were babies, I would always pause whatever I was doing at the time (where possible…and if it wasn’t possible right that second, it usually was very soon after) and read to them if they brought me a book, and I don’t think we’ve ever said “no” when they asked us to buy them a book.

  7. Yum Yucky

    Ohh, the shame! I admit to TV babysitter. Music videos on You Tube also babysits. But only in the morning while I’m getting ready for work! I promise!!!!!!!!!!

    And I fall into that “I can’t remember last time I read a book” category. I’m really striking out ’round here today.

  8. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    My favorite poll ever! šŸ™‚ I’m a confirmed bookworm and have been since potty-training days when my mother used picture books to lure me to the “big girl chair.” (TMI? I dunno.)

    I read books every day, usually fiction, but a smattering of non-fiction in there as well. (Lately it’s been all non-fiction, as I gave up fiction for Lent.) I don’t do well with audio books or radio readings. There’s just something about holding a book and assigning the voices *I* want to the characters.

  9. love2eatinpa

    i echo another responder – you didn’t put last night as an option.

    i read every night before i go to bed, just as you are doing. it’s part of my routine, a way to unwind and stop thinking about the days events.

    i don’t think screen time is exactly the same, but i think it count for something.

    my 8-yr old son loves to read every night before bed, so much so that he often loses track of time and goes to bed WAY later than i would like. my 10-yr old daughter isn’t as in to reading, so i try to find books/magazines that appeal to her. oftentimes that works. i love it when she tells me that she is enjoying something she is reading.

  10. Sagan Morrow

    Em- It’s DEFINITELY not the same when it’s “expected” reading as opposed to your own choice.

    Geosomin- AND it makes you forget how long the bus ride is šŸ˜‰

    Pubsgal- “when Iā€™d get stressed, Iā€™d just wander over there and the smell of the stacks would calm me down.” You’re my hero. And I LOVE that you’ve instilled reading skills and a love of books in your children!

    Yum Yucky- It’s okay, we still love you šŸ˜‰

    Cammy- Ahaha that’s awesome. But you GAVE UP FICTION FOR LENT?! Gah.

    Steve- Excellent!

    Sophia- Tsk tsk šŸ˜‰ No, I don’t count online reading- like I said above, the studies show that online reading just isn’t the same as reading from a screen. It’s gotta be hard copy!

    Love2eatinpa- If the shoe fits, right? We need to work with what we’ve got to persuade people to read.

  11. Mary Anne in Kentucky

    I had to read all the comments before I could bring myself to click the Last Week button instead of lobbying for a Today button. I read books constantly, and always have more than two or three going at once. The current count is three fiction and two non-fiction. I also spend a lot of time reading news and blogs on the computer, and I read books on my iPod touch. I don’t read many magazines, and my local newspaper is a weekly, so books don’t have much competition.

    When I was in graduate school I spent hours a day reading papers in various fields, but I found that I had to carve out at least one hour a day to read fiction or I went crazy.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  12. Monica

    I read daily too – its my little ritual before I go to bed. About 15 minutes of reading puts me in a good sleep. As a result, it takes me FOREVER to finish a book, but that’s OK. =) Lately, school books have taken precedent to novels, but I enjoy it. Also, I really do believe that reading makes me a better writer. So I try to do it consistently, even if it’s just a tiny bit every day.

  13. the Bag Lady

    I echo so many -” last night” should have been an option! (but I’ll go back and click last week…)

    I am like Mary Anne – always have more than one book on the go (right now I have 3) – mostly fiction. And I save all my books (I have books from when I was a teenager!) because I like to re-read them. Especially since I live so far from town – can’t just run to the drugstore at 9 pm to pick up a new book ’cause I finished the last one, which is what I did when I lived in town! I read all the time – when I’m eating, before bed….. to the detriment of my housework, a lot of the time! (err…. scrub the toilet or read a book – no contest!) And I rarely loan my books, becaus I’m afraid I won’t get them back.
    I may have to part with a few soon, though – the only room in the house that doesn’t have a bookshelf now is the bathroom…. hmmm, if I move the towels off those shelves….. šŸ™‚

    I totally agree with you that it is sad so many young people cannot string a coherent sentence together. And things like twitter are making it worse!

  14. Susan Leigh

    You are so right, it’s so very easy to let days go by and not read, but once you get into the routine of reading its totally addictive. We really have to encourage the children to read and stimulate their imaginations, rather than be spoon fed everything with films and TV.

    PS thanks for your comments on my healthy moms article – much appreciated, Susan xx

  15. Sagan Morrow

    Simply Life- And that’s the way it SHOULD be šŸ™‚

    Mary Anne- Sighs, I miss the days when I had 3-5 books going at once. Unfortunately university just doesn’t allow for that (unless it’s school-related, in which case I’ve got AT LEAST half a dozen going on at the same time, haha).

    Monica- You’ve hit on something which I failed to mention and which no one else has brought up: reading makes us better writers. Absolutely! And, I think, it makes us better people: it causes us to think in ways that we wouldn’t on our own, and it inspires us and opens up whole worlds and plenty of opportunity.

    Bag Lady- Yes, Twitter definitely makes it worse. So does texting. I hate to shorten words, but I often do when I’m texting just for the sake of convenience… it’s much easier to type “tho” rather than to keep pressing tiny buttons on a phone to write “though”, for example. The confines of space are also problematic because they PROMOTE poor grammar and sentence structure. With 140 characters on Twitter, sometimes punctuation gets really messed up and sentences don’t make as much sense as they should. On the other hand, only having 140 characters makes it a wonderful CHALLENGE to write coherently šŸ˜‰

    Susan Leigh- Exactly. If ever there were a good addiction, reading would be it!

  16. Miz

    I read a ton.
    a book a week at least.
    its just part of my selfdefinition I gave up for a time when we first had our daughter—-and I realized even more than FITNESS I missed it.


  17. liz wx

    I also love reading and have done since I can remember. Like Mary Anne & others I often have several books on the go. I have a long, long list of books we already own that I still haven’t got round to reading – not least because in the meantime I’ll have taken loads out the library or bought yet more. I love the thought of books as these small objects which contain whole worlds inside them, whether they’re novels, history, travel, or whatever. I really hope children go on reading books. There are some wonderful books around now for all ages and their lives without books would be so much poorer. And for adults there is just no comparison for instance between reading about Nelson Mandela on Wikipedia and reading Long Walk to Freedom. And I’m so pleased you’re finding time again to read fiction!

  18. Sagan Morrow

    Miz- The Tornado is going to grow up with the best influence EVER (you).

    Liz- You’ve said it so elegantly! I’m finding, as I pack up my things to get ready for my move, that books are really the things that I’m reluctant to toss. I don’t have much sentimental value attached to “things”, so I’m getting rid of/giving away lots of stuff, but I’m holding onto my books. They’re precious.

  19. JavaChick

    I read every night before bed. I find it’s a good way to relax and wind down.

    My family have always been big readers – I grew up with no cable and before computers (my first exposure was a computer course in grade 12, I didn’t actually get my own computer at home until I was in my late 20’s). I like TV, I don’t mind admitting it. But I also love to read and TV/computers are not a replacement for that.

    Oh, and I thought Twilight we pretty terrible. Mediocre story, irritating characters, and, yes, bad writing. But I think I’m in the minority on that one.

  20. Sagan Morrow

    JavaChick- I think it’s fine if we “indulge” when we’re older, but I really truly believe that when kids are growing up, their “screen time” should be limited. It’s not good for a developing brain to be too overwhelmed by computers and televisions. Re: Twilight: total. guilty. pleasure. šŸ™‚ (I can be a sucker for really crappy chick flicks, too. I KNOW that the storyline is bad, and the characters and writing are awful, but somehow it just reels me in!)

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