Thursday, June 26, 2014

It’s Hard to Sell Books To H.S. Dropouts

The book industry is always looking to grow, thinking of how it can sell more books to more people. But one thing stands in its way and it’s not Amazon or the Internet. It’s high school graduation rates. They are low and indicative of a big problem.

In New York state, where almost 1 in 16 Americans reside, the graduation rate for freshman to complete high school in four years is 74.9%. It’s up from 74% from a year ago, but before you celebrate, look a little further.

According to the Wall Street Journal, only 37%, by the state’s definition, of students who started high school in 2009 eventually achieved scores high enough on regional exams in math and English to show they were ready for college and careers.

Students who struggle with English as a second language as seniors have a graduation rate of 31%.

Though the statewide rate is nearly 75% -- which still means 1 in 4 are left behind—certain cities are doing poorly. New York City only has a 61.3% graduation rate, Buffalo 53.4%, Syracuse 48.8% and Rochester at a paltry 43%. The fact that standards are diluted to begin with doesn’t make this look any better.

There’s a big disparity in race graduation rates. 87% of whites and 81% of Asians graduate on time, but only 60% of African Americans and 59% of Hispanics do. The education system is in a crisis to produce students who are not only functional but who can meet the demands of today’s job marketplace.

And we need people who can read well and love to read, otherwise how are we feeding the book world’s need for new, voracious readers? We can’t import new readers. In fact, immigrants are the ones struggling with our language and likely are not the ones buying up a ton of books.

Should—and can—the book publishing industry help to improve our education system?

Certainly, publishing takes literacy seriously, but can they really partner with schools or parents to make a real difference?

It seems that in order to have a healthy reading community we’ll need to introduce books early and often in a child’s maturation period. It’s not enough to get young kids reading books over watching TV or teens to read instead of playing video games. We need to turn out competent, passionate, and vibrant readers. Books are the fruits and vegetables of our mind—and the lifeblood of society and the publishing industry. Read a book and buy one for another.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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