The Silly Claim That Americans Don't Have Enough Time to Read

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A whopping 51 percent of Americans polled said that the main reason they don't pick up books is that they don't have enough time to read.  When Americans are asked what keeps them from reading more books, "more than half — 51 percent — cite lack of time as a major factor. Only 16 percent say lack of interest in reading; 14 percent cite a lack of quality books," USA Today reports.

That poll seems to paint this idea that if Americans had more time on their hands, they would be reading more Murakami, Franzen, Oates, and Lahiri. Literature, after all, has been linked to making us better people. Just think, our cocktail conversations would be so much better since if we all read more, as we'd get to discuss whether or not The Corrections was better than Freedom, or if Kafka on the Shore was weirder than the The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Most of us want to read! Civilization is not doomed, after all!

If you're nodding along, stop now. There's reason to believe that 51 percent of those people citing a time constraint aren't being genuine. Granted, Americans are busy, and bless those parents devoting all that time shuttling their busy kids back and forth. But, according to the United States Department of Labor's American Time Use Survey from 2012, the average American aged 15 and older devotes 2.8 hours of that leisure time watching television. And those numbers can be downright depressing when you look at how teenagers spend their weekends: 

Time spent reading for personal interest and playing games or using a computer for leisure varied greatly by age. Individuals age 75 and over averaged 1.0 hour of reading per weekend day and 20 minutes playing games or using a computer for leisure. Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 7 minutes per weekend day while spending 1.0 hour playing games or using a computer for leisure.

The silver lining for people who think American literacy is reaching a cultural nadir is that USA Today found that e-readers and tablets are spurring people to read more books. People who had either an e-book or tablet read more books than people who didn't. And nearly 40 percent of Americans aged 18-39 had a reader, meaning that there's a chance that these contraptions can get Americans back to the books.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.