NEA Report: Americans Reading Less Literature

Article excerpt

A report released July 8 by the National Endowment for the Arts indicates that fewer than half of the adult American population reads novels, short stories, plays, or poetry in their leisure time. Reading at Risk (www.nea.gov/pub/ReadingAtRisk.pdf), based on a survey of 17,000 adults age 18 and over conducted by the Census Bureau, shows that the percentage of adults who read literature has dropped dramatically over the past 20 years, from 56.9% in 1982 to 46.7% in 2002.

NEA chairman Dana Gioia called the findings shocking. "We have a lot of functionally literate people who are no longer engaged readers," he said in an interview with the Associated Press. "This isn't a case of 'Johnny Can't Read,' but 'Johnny Won't Read.'"

ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano noted that the report should have addressed library use by the adults it surveyed, but hoped that it would "invigorate a national discussion around literature and reading."

The report also noted that:

* The percentage of adults reading any kind of book (including nonfiction) has declined by only 7% in the past decade, compared with 14% for literature. …