Sometimes, people create dystopian societies through an artistic lens but some of these sound an unnerving truth in our world. In Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” books are taboo and burning them is approved by the government. Jennifer Cazey Daniels reports that the movie “Idiocracy,” where intelligence is no more, is a projection of what is to come in our world. Both Bradbury’s book and “Idiocracy” have a common denominator: the problem of literacy.

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How is the literacy rate a concern?

In America, the Literacy Rate, even among adults is becoming a growing concern. It is mainly because of the usage (or excessive usage, if you will) of phones and social media, and is eerily reflected in the likes of Bradbury's novel. Laura Craciun describes the dystopian society portrayed in “Fahrenheit 451” as a civilization where people are easily swayed by mass media and drugs, something that is not too different from our world.

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I say this because we live in a society where people keep a vigilant eye on their phones, binge watch shows on TV or Netflix, or exemplify fame and fortune. Video games are another factor, competing for your attention alongside the other forms of media. I’m guilty of this (nowadays, I’m both a writer and a gamer), but just by learning how important it is to read, books access information (among other things) that the other forms of media don’t portray.

What is the evidence?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that this is a trend. According to a report made by Jordan Weissmann, 23% of American adults did not read a book in 2014. Another, more alarming piece of evidence is a post by Brandon Gaille outlining various statistics. Of these, 14% of the adults in the US cannot read, and 21% of American adults read at the 5th-grade level or lower. This post raises some alarming issues among the American populace that, if left unchecked, can result in illiteracy that rivals those of the dystopian worlds I mentioned earlier.

While TV shows and movies are more accessible (ebooks have not taken off compared to physical books) and allow for social gatherings, reading books grants not only a higher literacy rate but also knowledge of the world we live in. Through books, we gain the skills needed to survive and do well in society, and reading literature, according to Karen Weintraub, boosts the empathy of readers. The question of America’s declining literacy rate is one that must be answered sooner rather than later, and it all begins with a love of reading.

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