June 18, 2019

How To Make People Read

“How do you measure joy? Can we calculate the pleasure of learning to read? Is it possible to quantify the satisfaction of reading an amazingly good book?

For the third year in a row, the Trump administration is trying to revoke all federal funding from public libraries. The idea, to many readers, is categorically absurd. But readers or not, we live in a world where economic realities demand facts and figures. Multiple studies show libraries’ positive economic impact, but when it comes to measuring the success of city-wide reading programs like One City, One Book and Big Read, often there’s no number to be had.

In 1998, former Seattle Public Library Executive Director Nancy Pearl founded If All Seattle Read the Same Book, a public initiative to get the city’s then 536,978 residents to, well, read the same book. At the time, the goal was to improve literacy, a number that can be measured over time. By 2005, the program’s seventh year, Seattle had become the most literate city in the nation. Today the goal and name of the initiative are slightly different: The library site says Seattle Reads is “designed to deepen engagement in literature through reading and discussion.””

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