Sunday, July 5, 2020 -
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The reading class

Urban, check. White, check. Female, check. Educated, check. When it comes to the characteristics of the “reading class,” I seem to fit the pattern. A recent Atlantic article explored why some people become lifelong readers, and who are those most likely to become part of what Northwestern sociologist Wendy Griswold termed the “reading class,” Americans who read 50 or more books a year. Apparently, there are 5% of us. That’s a whole lot of people reading a whole lot of books.

In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, another factor that influences how much one reads is to what degree reading is part of one’s parents’ lives. This ranges from seeing parents read, to discussing books to just having books around the house.

Literacy is a key skill and one that many parents today worry their children aren’t developing. Technology — television, social media, cellphones — can be a distraction. But what’s great is how easy — and inexpensive — it can be to encourage reading. But it does require modelling. That means as a parent you may have to put your phone down, or not open your laptop immediately after dinner.

Here’s what I love about this 5%. It’s not a qualitative assessment, only quantitative. So the suspense novel I’m currently reading (Necessary People) counts just as much as the non-fiction tome I just picked (Cold Warriors), assuming I finish it. Really, all being part of the reading class means is that one spends a significant portion of one’s leisure time surrounded by words.

The NEA study upon which much of this data is based did not include religious background as a factor, but I’d be curious if Jews are more represented in the reading class then others.

Let’s find out. Any of you five-percenters?

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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Shana Goldberg

IJN Assistant Publisher |

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