WASHINGTON, DC—A study released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education revealed that, contrary to the longtime claims of librarians and teachers, books do not take you anywhere.
"For years, countless educators have asserted that books give readers a chance to journey to exotic, far-off lands and meet strange, exciting new people," Education Secretary Richard Riley told reporters. "We have found this is simply not the case."
According to the study, those who read are not transported to any place beyond the area in which the reading occurs, and even these movements are always the result of voluntary decisions made by the reader and not in any way related to the actual reading process.
"People engaged in reading tend to be motionless," Riley said. "Not moving tends to make it easier to read."
In various field experiments, the study found that young readers are particularly susceptible to the reading-travel myth. One test subject, 11-year-old Justin Fisher of Ypsilanti, MI, began reading a fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis under close observation. After 40 minutes, the only trip Fisher took was to the bathroom, a journey he himself initiated because he "had to go." Further, at no point did Fisher's voyage to the bathroom involve evil witches, messianic lions or closet portals to other universes.
"I just stayed in my chair without moving that much," Fisher said. "I think I scratched my head a couple of times."
Another case documented in the study was that of San Diego 13-year-old Liz Kent, who read Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Over the course of more than three hours reading the pirate-adventure tale, at no point did she make a new friend or travel to a distant land.
The study did note one exception to the findings, citing situations in which people read on buses, cars, trains or planes. Even in these cases, however, the reading-travel link is tenuous at best.
"Many people enjoy reading while traveling," Riley said. "But it is important to note that the traveling always results in the reading, and never the reverse."
As a result of the study, it is expected that many young people will call into question what Riley termed "the empty promises of library posters and other pieces of pro-reading propaganda."
"I hate it when you get excited about a place and then you don't go there," 10-year-old Ashley Brandes of Atlanta said. "Reading sucks."