City literacy ranking nothing to cheer about
Honolulu's literacy has improved in rankings of American cities.
Pause before celebrating a new report that Honolulu has improved its ranking among U.S. cities in literacy. A more extensive report released two months ago concluded that reading ability and the habit of regular reading have plummeted across the country. Honolulu residents might be merely abandoning the written record at a slower pace than other Americans.
The good news is that urban Honolulu is ranked 18th in literacy among the 69 cities with populations of more than 250,000, up from 22nd last year and 35th in 2005, according to a study by Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University.
Miller's ranking of Honolulu in Internet usage rose during the two-year period from 21st to 11th. Honolulu is 15th in the percentage of high school or college degrees, tied for 15th in the number of locally published magazines and journals, 19th in library usage and services and 52nd in the number of booksellers -- all higher rankings than in 2005.
Most of the cities surveyed have a higher percentage of high school and college graduates among adults than they had five years ago. Miller acknowledges that Americans are buying fewer books and newspapers.
Only one city -- St. Paul, Minn. -- has a higher Sunday newspaper circulation than it had five years ago. One of the literacy measuring sticks was the number of visitors and hits per capita on the city newspapers' Web sites.
Miller agrees with the "disturbing story" told by the National Endowment for the Arts in November that Americans are reading less and reading less well. NEA Chairman Dana Gioia writes in the report's preface that it recognizes "measurable progress" in reading ability at the elementary level. However, further progress "appears to halt as children enter their teenage years," and even college graduates have greatly declined in both reading ability and habit of reading.
"With lower levels of reading and writing ability," Gioia points out, "people do less well in the job market. Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages and fewer opportunities for advancement." Parents should recognize that consequence when they notice their teenage children playing a video game instead of reading a book.
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