The Twin Cities Receive High Marks in National Literacy Study
Posted by Brent Lee on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:00 AM By Brent Lee / February 7, 2014 Comment
Stories like these always make Minnesotans like me feel a bit smarter -- maybe we read so much because it's so dang cold for six straight months. According to a recent study by Central Connecticut State University President John Miller, Minneapolis and St. Paul are two of the top ten most literate cities in America. The study, which has been conducted annually since 2003, looked at six key indicators of literacy in the process of arriving at its ranking: number of bookstores, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, periodical publishing resources, and newspaper circulation. Focusing on those key indicators, Miller has utilized a mountain of a data to analyze every city in America with a population over 250,000. Of the 77 U.S. cities that were a part of his research, Minneapolis ranked as the third most literate, while St. Paul came in four spots below at number seven. [caption id="attachment_160074" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Minneapolis Central Library[/caption] Here are the top 10 cities on the 2013 list: 1. Washington 2. Seattle 3. Minneapolis 4. Atlanta (tie) 4. Pittsburgh (tie) 6. Denver 7. St. Paul 8. Boston 9. St. Louis 10. San Francisco This isn’t the first time St. Paul or Minneapolis has appeared on Miller’s Top 10 List. Since 2005, Minneapolis has finished as one of the three most literate cities every year, holding the #1 spot for a two-year stretch in 2007 and 2008. St. Paul has also put in a strong showing, consistently finishing in or near the top ten, peaking at number three on the list in 2007. Though he acknowledges his study is ultimately of a somewhat subjective nature, admitting individual "ranking is necessarily an interpretation of data," Dr. Miller sees the numerical classification as only a small aspect of his work.
“From this data we can better perceive the extent and quality of the long-term literacy essential to individual economic success, civic participation, and the quality of life in a community and a nation,” University President Miller said on the CCSU website, adding, “What matters most is not whether the rank ordering changes but what communities do to promote the kinds of literacy practices that the data track.”Full details of the study can be found here. As an editorial aside, since I’m feeling so smart literate at the moment, I’ve got an idea for Dr. Miller’s 2014 study: add weather data into the calculations and rankings. Perusing the study and 2013’s full list of rankings, I noticed cities located in historically cold or rainy climates generally tend to be ranked near the top, while cities in sunny and warm regions ended up farther down the list. This apparent trend got me thinking… Maybe folks from traditionally inclement regions — including the good people of Minneapolis and St. Paul — read more on average because it’s often too cold to do anything else? On the flip side, perhaps Americans living in milder locales tend to read less due to the myriad of outdoor entertainment and leisure options afforded to them by their comparatively more pleasant weather? For instance, Anaheim is down near the bottom of the list, at number 72. But it was probably 72 degrees and sunny all week in Southern California, so who can blame the residents of Anaheim for eschewing the libraries and switching off their Kindles in favor of playing in the sunshine? Meanwhile, here in this Southern Arctic tundra we call home, the windchill has been near or below zero for weeks. As a result of this bitter cold snap, many of us less heroic Minnesotans have stayed indoors, dodging the wintry assault and likely out-reading all of Orange County in the process. So, while I’d love to credit the Twin Cities’ high literacy ranking from Dr. Miller’s study to our innate inquisitive and studious nature as Minnesotans, I’m inclined to believe the reality is a tad more pragmatic than that. After all, the odds that I will hunker down with a book in my (warm) home or head over to the (climate controlled) library are pretty good when the outdoor alternatives involve the risk of frostbite. Photos via: Google