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Schroeder to speak on Americans’ lazy brains

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder will speak tonight in Paepcke Auditorium on what she considers a growing reading problem in America.

Schroeder, who represented the 1st Congressional District of Colorado for 24 years, is now president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, the national trade organization of the U.S. publishing industry.

Schroeder’s speech, entitled “Are We a Literate Nation? (And Does it Matter),” is part of the Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival.

“It’s like a renaissance in writing right now,” she said. “This country’s got people from every part of the planet, and they’re writing amazing stuff.”

Amazing writers, but no audience.

Schroeder said she feels Americans are far behind citizens of other developed countries in reading, and that it’s creating widespread misunderstanding and even ignorance of what’s happening in the world.

“We’ve done a very poor job of educating people about intellectual property and how important it is,” she said. “We need to be working our brains much harder and learning about the rest of the globe.”

In our television-dominated culture, Schroeder said parents teaching their children the importance of reading at an early age is crucial.

“If children aren’t read to and aren’t around books, they’ll never catch up,” she said.

“We have a culture where if you’re not born with attention deficit disorder, we try to teach it to you in the first year,” she jokingly added.

Schroeder also blames the media – who she said have reduced or completely cut book reviews from their agenda to make way for advertisers – and stormy relationships in the book industry for flaming the reading problem.

“There’s a huge problem in the industry,” she said.

Schroeder believes reading also has health benefits, citing a recent study on Alzheimer’s disease that showed elderly people who continued to read and exercise their brain greatly reduced their chances of contracting the disease.

“Video games don’t prevent Alzheimer’s,” she added.

Schroeder, who now spends most of her time on the East Coast, said it’s great to be back in Colorado. “It’s so gorgeous here.”

In addition to her lengthy congressional term, and teaching public and international affairs at Princeton University, Schroeder has authored two books: “Champion of the Great American Family” and “24 Years of House Work … and the Place is Still A Mess.”

She will speak tonight at 7 in Paepcke Auditorium. The price of admission is $20.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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