In the passionate article, “Why Literature Matters” by the respected Dana Gioia, the author convincingly argues that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society and that this trend is a severe problem with broad consequences.
The author effectively and steadfastly builds the argument by using a variety of persuasive and argumentative rhetorical techniques including specific and convincing evidence, logical reasoning, and appeals to emotion through a careful choice of words.In paragraph 2, Gioia begins by citing a 2002 survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts together with the US Bureau of the Census where he writes “arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured…the declines have been most severe among younger adults.” By citing a study conducted by a respected institution Gioia gives the study and conclusion credibility. The author intends to show that a reading problem exists in America and emphasizes that the situation will worsen in years to come given its prevalence in younger adults. Gioia goes on to state that the lack of reading affects young people “at a time of crucial intellectual and emotional development” and this causes them to “bypass the joys and challenges of literature.” By referring to young people along with their emotional development and joy, the author appeals to emotions to convince that this matter is significant.
The technique is effective because most people are emotionally tied to young people’s development.Later on in paragraph 5, the author expands his argument by citing the technology magazine Wired which proclaims that “…a new set of mental skills and habits proper to the 21st century, aptitudes decidedly literary in character…” are important in the business world and are needed to succeed today.
Gioia continues with the results of a poll from another reliable source, The National Association of Manufacturers. The poll shows that employers think that reading skills are deficient in today’s workplace and that better readers are needed. By indicating that there are consequences to not being able to read well that are revealed in the job market, Gioia gains support by tying his general concerns about reading to an important concern about seeking employment. Poor reading skills can have not just a personal impact in school but also an economic one affecting the ability to make a living. By highlighting that there is a personal stake in the reading crisis facing society, the author furthers his argument by showing the impact on the business community.
Gioia also argues that decreased literacy is the cause of a decline in civic involvement and provides support to this effect when he writes in paragraph 7 that “A 2003 study of 15- to 26-year-olds’ civic knowledge…
shows that young people do not understand the ideals of citizenship…” Gioia uses that data to suggest that declining reading rates match the decline in political awareness. In paragraph 8, he observes that the study in “Reading at Risk” shows that “literary readers are markedly more civically engaged than nonreaders…” By quoting these studies, the author intends to show the impact of declining literacy and emphasize that reading improvement is important for the well-being of the community. By tying reading to civic involvement, the author appeals to politicians and civic leaders to work together with schools and libraries to make reading a priority.
Gioia is concerned that people are reading less and he argues that because of the negative impact of this trend people must work together to make changes. In his argument he uses strong logical and emotional reasoning and establishes a connection to real life issues. In the end, it is convincing that the decline in reading is a problem for society and action needs to be taken.