Alliteracy is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as the quality or state of being able to read but uninterested in doing so. I, myself, am an example of the definition Merriam-Webster gives. I am fully competent of picking up a book and reading it. When I have spare time available, I could easily walk over to the book shelf in my house, where my wife has many books ranging from romance to science fiction, pick one out and read it. However, it is not a something that draws my attention or seems of interest to do.
I only read when it is required of me, such as work related text and school related text. On the contrary, Mortimer Adler was a man who loves books! In his 1940 essay, “How to Mark a Book,” Adler defines how reading is more than just reading. It is the act of active reading- a skill- that requires using certain strategies in order to remember and understand what you read by highlighting, underlining, and make annotations in the book to help you remember and understand what you’ve read.
Adler states, “Marking up a book is not an act of mutilation but of love.” (Adler, 1940) Adler’s form of reading requires putting forth effort that people who are alliterate may not see as relevant for reasons such as technological advances and an expensive hobby during a time of recession. One technological advance that has replaced books is through the invention of the television, which was a modern day marvel of its time and still continues to be. The invention of the television brought news and entertainment to the general population easier and faster than any book or newspaper ever could. People started relying on television more and more and reduced or eliminated reading from their daily activities. Between 1955 and 1975, when television were predominately introduced, a study showed that the average amount of time a person spent reading fell from 5 hours a day to 3.6 hours a day. However, as time went on and a larger variety of shows became available and television hours extended those figures changed significantly.
The same study shows that by 1995, the average person spent 9 percent of the spare time reading in comparison to 21 percent in 1955. Adler states, “They forget that it is possible for a man to acquire the idea, to process beauty, which a great book contains.” (Adler, 1940) However, does it truly mean that because people don’t read, they cannot acquire ideas or process the beauty behind ideas and creativity? I disagree. Television has been a wonderful source for information as we learn tons of information about places and people that we seldom learn about in written literature. We can easily learn about new cultures, different places, and how to do things without turning through page after page of words. Television, furthermore, helps improve memory as we are able to recall what we see easier than by what we’ve read.
Another factor that has helped to cause alliteracy is money. People just don’t have the funds to purchase the high prices that are placed on books especially during these recessive times. Buying books is an expensive hobby and outside of the reach of the average person who is struggling just to pay their bills. According the National Endowment for the Arts, reading participation increases quite progressively for each increase in family income. Based on the survey, which was taken in 2002, approximately one-third of family with an income under $10,000 read literature during the survey year. This was in comparison to 61 percent of family with incomes of $75,000 or more. Based on these surveys, it is proven that lower family incomes are linked with alliteracy rates. In Adler’s How to Mark a Book, Adler makes the statement, “…buy yourself a cheap edition and pay your respects to the author,” (Adler, 1940) for the sole purpose to “Mark” the book up.
Adler throws this idea out freely as if everyone is able to afford the cost of books. However, Adler was American professor, philosopher, and educational theorist who was more than likely in the 61 percentile that the National Endowment for the Arts surveyed. It is not feasible to assume that everyone can afford the price of books and may face allitaracy for that reason. Adler’s form of reading requires putting forth effort that people who are alliterate may not see as relevant for reasons such as technological advances and an expensive hobby during a time of recession. If the purpose of Adler’s reasoning in marking a book is to share an intimate relationship with the author, then maybe technological advances will one day bring that to the masses in a more affordable way.