The story the numbers tell, Gioia said, can be summed up in about four sentences:
"We are doing a better job of teaching kids to read in elementary school. But once they enter adolescence, they fall victim to a general culture which does not encourage or reinforce reading. Because these people then read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they do more poorly in school, in the job market and in civic life."
This hits home, of course, because I come from a long line of book addicts. My house is full of books (kinda overflowing...sorry for those who have to squeeze into the guest room!). We read all the time; all of us.
Anecdote: Last week, we went for a parent-teacher-student conference at our (six-and-a-half year old) daughter's school. One of the exercises in the conference was for each of us to list strengths, challenges, goals, and action plans for our daughter. One of the things that surprised me when my daughter was listing her strengths was that she left out reading. That's probably the area where she excels most, and it could be called her defining characteristic. She's always walking around, carrying a book and reading it.
It occurs to me that she doesn't see this as a strength: everyone around her (at home, anyway) is always reading, too. It reminds me of an experience my wife related, where she was at a class, and people went around the room listing their hobbies. She was surprised how many people listed "Reading" as a hobby. She'd never thought of it as one, though she reads daily, because "it's like breathing, just something you do." It seems it's like that for our daughter, too. We have always read with, to, and around her. We read for pleasure, read for work, just read.
Now, I realize that this is atypical. We read far more than most people. But I also realize we're reading so much that we (and people like us) skew the averages upward. Which makes the overall decline in reading all the more disturbing to me.
So, go out and read a book in public. Support your public library. Support your local bookstores, especially independent ones. Make it visible; make it popular. Carry a book with you so people see what you're doing. Talk about what you read. Especially around young people. They need to know that reading is a Good Thing, and not just in the "taking your medicine" sense. It may not be as easy as watching TV, but it's much more rewarding.