Study: Reading on the rise

From today’s Shelf Awareness:

Hope it’s not fiction.

For the first time since 1982, “the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen [to 50.2%],” according to a National Endowment for the Arts study being released today, reported by the New York Times.

The increase was most notable among 18-24 year olds and involved novels and short stories more than poetry or drama. Literary reading also increased among Hispanic Americans.

For the first time, the study included Internet reading, which some thought might have helped boost rates, although the AAP’s Pat Schroeder suggested that some people don’t count reading online or on e-readers as “book” reading.

Other possible explanations for the jump: one community, one read programs; the popularity of the Harry Potter and Twilight series; and “individual efforts of teachers, librarians, parents and civic leaders” to promote literature and reading. Booksellers, too, we’d think.

The study is called “Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy” and is based on data from the Census Bureau compiled last year.

The Times article is accompanied by a nice chart, showing the percent of people reading literature over time.

I hope it’s not fiction, too. As I read the Times piece, it’s clear that whether this is entirely good news isn’t all that clear. As with most surveys, polls, etc., it’s hard to know for sure what the data means.

(I posted briefly here about the state of literacy in the USA based on a study by a different firm in August 2007.)

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s the NEA press release on the study.


3 responses to “Study: Reading on the rise

  1. It might be a demographic thing. Boomers are aging and reaching retirement and have more time for reading.

  2. Well, that’s certainly not the entire answer — a higher percentage answered in the affirmative in each age group.

  3. Literacy is a passion of mine, so these facts are encouraging! I too want them to be true. To do my part to help fight illiteracy (or an aversion to reading), I’ve started taking my sister’s kids (ages 8+, 6+, and 5) on once-a-month reading dates. We go to Border’s, grab a cookie and hot chocolate, and read a few books.

    My own reading has increased over the past few months; I think one contributing factor is my blog’s Bookshelf. I list the books I’m working on, as well as the books I want to read next. As I finish a book, I add it to that year’s reading list (if I remember!).

    I do remember that back in the fall, I was adding some titles to the 2008 list and realized that I had not read as much as I assumed . . . seeing reality stare back at me was sobering! I now find myself thinking as I did long ago: When can I read today? When can I steal away another five minutes to read another page? 🙂

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