news: pleasure reading up

The National Endowment for the Arts has just released their periodic report on reading. Its title, Reading on the Rise gives a good hint of the content. They have been doing this survey (which is carefully balanced to reflect actual demographics, based on the census) for 26 years, giving them a long baseline of results.

How do they define literary reading? For purposes of this study, “reading of any novels, short stories, poems, or plays in print or online.” (Note the last bit, which I believe was not true in 2002.)

Key findings:

  • 50.2% of Americans did literary reading in the past twelve months.
  • This is an increase from 46.7 in 2002, the last year of the report.
  • The absolute number of readers (in terms of population) has increased significantly, and is the highest at any point in the survey’s history.
  • 84 percent of adults who read literature (fiction, poetry, or drama) online or downloaded from the Internet also read books, whether print or online.

There are some especially interesting results for young adults (ages 18-24) – their rates have increased at nearly 3 times the rate of adult literary reading growth, despite steep declines in the surveys since 1992. The increases for white, African-American, and Hispanic readers are also very interesting.

Much more information is available in the NEA study (see the link above), and it’s presented in a very readable fashion.

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