Originally Posted by BWinmill
Reading is much more accessible these days.
I've lived long enough to disagree with this view. From my own life: my family was so poor we had an outhouse, a galvanized tin wash tub, and we heated water on the wood stove, yet we owned shelves of books from the 1800's to contemporary titles. In the 50's and 60's when I was living on spuds and beans there was always 25-40 cents to spend on the latest pulp fiction in drugstores and convenience stores, usually provided by finding discarded soda and beer bottles lying around and returned for deposit (yes, in those days glass bottles were recycled). Even money earned babysitting gave me enough for a subscription to at least one monthly discount club. Then there were libraries and the numerous second-hand stores where you could trade in 2 or 3 books for a new one. Clearly, from my family's collection, my parents and grandparents had no more difficulty accessing books than did I.
Beyond attaining literacy, education level is not necessarily all that relevant to this discussion. My parents never made it to high school and I never made it to college, yet we were always aware of popular fiction, as well as fiction deemed of literary value.