The Write Stuff?
By Alex Distefano
The tenth annual study of America’s Most Literate Cities was released by Central Connecticut State University last month, and to no surprise that Washington, D.C. topped the list. The study “measures a key component in America’s social health by ranking the culture and resources for reading in America’s 75 largest cities,” according to a press release from the university’s website.
So how did cities here in the IE rate on this list? Well, if you live in Riverside and you’re a book worm, egg head, professor, academic, avid reader, writer or journalist—things look grim. The town can do a lot better in the readin‘ ’n‘ books department.
Mark McLaughlin, the school’s vice president of marketing and communications, explained to the Weekly that the study’s criteria is based on research data that is focused on six main indicators of literacy in each city. These categories are broken down to Internet resources, library resources, booksellers, newspaper circulation, periodical publishing resources and educational attainment. The information is then analyzed and compared against population rates which then show researchers a per capita profile of the city’s literacy.
But even though this is a topic that doesn’t affect people who are literate, McLaughlin warns that the implications are huge, and that this study—headed by university President Dr. Jack Miller—is crucial to help lower rates of illiteracy in cities across the nation.
“Dr. Miller’s study tracks the resources for what is known as ‘long-term literacy,’ which can tell us how people use their literacy in ways that directly impact their lives,” McLaughlin says. “This means how they use literacy in their work, in their engagement with their community, and in their cultural and social interactions. These habits of reading are essential to the economic success and the quality of life for individuals, cities, states and to that of the nation.”
Riverside in particular has a lot to improve upon this time around. The city was ranked 63rd out of 75, when it comes to literacy. This is compared to 2007, where the city was higher on the list, coming in at 57th place.
But the news isn’t all bad for the so-called “City of Trees”. Even though the city was ranked 63rd and saw a lower rating than in previous years, in the category of newspaper circulation, Riverside finished tied at 23rd with Portland, Oregon. The study also revealed that Riverside ranked 69th place overall, in the category of educational attainment—the percentage of those with a high school or college degree. The city was 67th place in library resources, which analyzed the number of branch libraries and professional library staff per 10,000 residents.
Riverside may have ranked low on the list, but so did many other cities in the state. Orange County’s Santa Ana came in at 57th place and Los Angeles tied for 60th place with Houston, Texas. Anaheim came in at 72nd place with Stockton at 74th and Bakersfield dead last at 76th place. Wow. Bakersfield . . . really?
But McLaughlin adds in the caveat that these extensive studies are complicated and don’t always show an easy or single solution for the results because they vary from year to year.
“If we’ve learned anything in the years of studying the literacy practices of our largest cities, it is that a city’s quality of literacy has to do with many decisions according to Dr. Miller,” McLaughlin says. “Many of those decisions are beyond the scope of his survey. Certainly, investing in libraries and promoting education could have a significant impact on the possibilities for developing the literacy of a city’s population.”