NEA Arts Magazine

NEA's New Study on Reading Habits

According to the numbers, Americans are not only reading less, but we're reading less well. This was the story reported by the newly released NEA research report, To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, a comprehensive analysis of more than 40 studies on the reading habits of Americans. Expanding on the agency's landmark 2004 report, Reading at Risk, the new publication surveys the reading habits and skills of children, teenagers, and adults around all types of reading in various formats. Drawing on a range of national studies published since 2004, from sources including the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education and the Conference Board, To Read or Not To Read also shows a distinct correlation between lower reading rates and decreased economic, civic, and social opportunities for Americans.

NEA Chairman Gioia characterizes To Read or Not To Read as a wake-up call for the nation to the importance of reading and "what the consequences of doing it well or doing it badly are." In an interview with the Seattle Times published shortly after the study's release, Chairman Gioia said, "[This is a] call to action not only for parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and publishers, but also for politicians, business leaders, economists, and social activists. . . . It is now time to become more committed to solving [the decline in reading] or face the consequences.The nation needs to focus more attention and resources on an activity both fundamental and irreplaceable for democracy."

To Read or Not To Read is available for free on the NEA web site at www.arts.gov/pub/pubLit.php and is also accessible as a PDF.