One might argue that literacy is unalloyedly a good thing – yes, I can think of counter-examples, but then again one always can – but it is pretty clear to me that reading, as in reading of literature, is not. What we read can affect us vitally, penetrate, stimulate and inform us, but not always in the right ways, or at the right times, or about the right things. If you think that reading the right things in the right ways is morally bracing, improves one’s discriminations and heightens sensitivity – basically, the Leavis line – then all you have to do is look at the behaviour of Dr Leavis himself to begin to doubt the thesis. Indeed, if it were true that wide and deep reading redounds wholly positively on the development of a wholesome self, consider a typical member of a university English department, and despair.
Just for the record, I agree with this completely.