Statistics indicate that only about one in four Americans read a book per year. The one greatest deficiency employers note in their employees is poor reading and writing skills, and companies spend billions each year on remedial courses for workers. J. C. Penney stated, "One of the saddest mistakes I made in years gone by was my utter neglect of reading." Abigail Van Buren said, "If I could give young people only one piece of advice, it would be read, read, read!"
Back in the day when books were less common and more expensive, the great preacher, Spurgeon, urged people to buy only the best most profitable books-those that would do the reader the most good. Locke follows up on that challenge with his statement that "reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read our own."
Nowadays in Western society some formal education is available for most of the young, and, where it is available, of course it should be enjoyed. However, the crucial value of reading cannot be over-emphasized. Dozens of famous and very productive individuals became successful largely through reading.
It is not secret that Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) left school at the age of thirteen for a learning pilgrimage which included stints as a delivery boy, grocery clerk, blacksmith's helper, typesetter, and river boat pilot. He became one of the most renowned writers in American history.
Abraham Lincoln failed twice in business before he reached the age of twenty-five, had a nervous breakdown and failed in seeking public office eight times before being elected the sixteenth president of the United States. In spite of the odds against him, Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer with not even a year of formal schooling. He is said to have walked for miles in pursuit of books, and, although he couldn't avail himself of multitudes of books, he set out to thoroughly understand everything he did read.
Research establishes that almost four million children in the United Kingdom do not even own a book. This causes concern that the rate of children growing up without books is rising, not falling. Youngsters from families of a lower economic level are even more likely to miss out. A recent report by the National Literacy Trust reported in a survey of 18,000 youngsters that almost a third - 3.8 million - do not have books of their own. And the figure has increased from seven years ago, the last time the poll was conducted, when it stood at one in ten.
These statistics also reveal that boys are more likely to be without books than girls, and children eligible for free school meals - a measure of poverty - are more likely to not own a book. The findings, not unsurprisingly, indicate that children who do own books are more likely to enjoy reading, read more books and read more frequently. They are also more likely to perform better at school. Just 7.6 percent of pupils who possess books of their own are reading below the expected level, against 19 percent of those that do not own books. This reflects cause for great concern. Researchers also concluded that 75% of children who read nine or more books a month read above the level expected of them, compared with 28.6% of those who read no books in a month. We must make good books available to our children. Then we must get our children reading by giving them books that will hook their interests. The statistics are almost guaranteed to be no better in the United States.