Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reading Habits

A recent article in The New York Times had good news about adult reading habits. With all the publishing woes and cutbacks lately, we could use some good news.
After years of bemoaning the decline of a literary culture in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts says in a report that it now believes a quarter-century of precipitous decline in fiction reading has reversed.
The report is from a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008.
Among its chief findings is that for the first time since 1982, when the bureau began collecting such data, 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.
Of course, it wasn’t all good news. The proportion of adults reading poetry and drama continues to decline. But today, we’re reporting good news.
Nevertheless the proportion of overall literary reading increased among virtually all age groups, ethnic and demographic categories since 2002. It increased most dramatically among 18-to-24-year-olds, who had previously shown the most significant declines.
Dana Gioia, outgoing chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, attributes the increase in literary reading to:
community-based programs like the “Big Read,” Oprah Winfrey’s book club, the huge popularity of book series like “Harry Potter” and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” as well as the individual efforts of teachers, librarians, parents and civic leaders to create “a buzz around literature that’s getting people to read more in whatever medium.”


  1. It's so refreshing to read good news!

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  2. It is, isn't it? I declare this a "good news weekend" for everyone!

  3. Reading books is good escapism. People need that these days and we can provide it for them.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. Considering the age of readers who became hooked on Harry Potter, that rise in 18-24 year-olds is not a big surprise. Harry Potter really did capture a lot of new readers and kept them reading. Look at how big YA is now! So many series and best sellers. At the moment, it's 'uncool' to say you haven't read Twilight.

    Hopefully this trend continues...

    L. Diane Wolfe

  5. You're right, Morgan. Being able to escape, for an hour or so, into a world outside of the recession is great.

  6. So true, Diane. I forget that the original readers of Potter have grown up. My son, who's not a teenager anymore, still likes Harry Potter. He's even read Twilight, although he did not like the movie (I haven't seen it). I haven't gotten the latest in the Twilight series. My TBR pile is already teetering.

  7. Nice to read some good news in the literary world. Now if only we could get the "average" reader to want to read above a 5th grade reading level, maybe us writers could start using ALL of our vocabulary in our books.


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