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John Updike: Writing Is Diminished And Reading Is Declining

John Updike passed away yesterday. There was no greater advocate of books than this author who created so many of them and read so many of them. For someone who thought of writing and literature as so fundamental, he was known for writing about the most ordinary of things in eloquent words.

But he has created controversy around his greatest lament that writing was diminished and reading was declining. Is it true that people is reading less than before?

We have to disagree. People may not be reading printed books or any other printed instrument, but there are others, particularly young ones, who are reading on the screen of their computers. Is fair to say that they are not reading books online in the same way we were used to do it a decade now, however, they are certainly reading different kinds of media online, included blogs.

There are students who have a book under the pillow for months. But this same students digest a good amount of literature while online and a single day! Brevity is the clue. And when we talk about writing and reading, brevity is so much important these days. Any clue as to why Twitter is getting so popular with its 140 characters?

The Journal of Educational Psychology, confirms how wordiness can hurt reading and by our purpose, learning. The study they carried, compared three lessons about the same weather process. All lessons used the same illustrations but varied in the number of words. Result: Lesson with the fewest words resulted in the most learning. (pdf doc, pp. 109-115).

So, may be that we are wrong, considering the stature of John Updike, still one thing is true: Reading is not declining. What has changed is the way we read and we prefer concise writing in front of long and wordy books. Don't get me wrong, we appreciate and value enormously the books, only that these instruments of knowledge are no so popular anymore among the new generation.

John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji of The Takeaway share with you a book list from their listeners created to honor John Updike.

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