More American Adults Read Literature According to New
Literary reading on the rise for first time in history of Arts Endowment survey
January 12, 2009
Washington, D.C. -- For the first time in more than 25 years, American adults are reading more literature, according to a new study by the National Endowment for the Arts. Reading on the Rise documents a definitive increase in rates and numbers of American adults who read literature, with the biggest increases among young adults, ages 18-24. This new growth reverses two decades of downward trends cited previously in NEA reports such as Reading at Risk and To Read or Not To Read.
"At a time of immense cultural pessimism, the NEA is pleased to announce some important good news. Literary reading has risen in the U.S. for the first time in a quarter century," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "This dramatic turnaround shows that the many programs now focused on reading, including our own Big Read, are working. Cultural decline is not inevitable."
Among the key findings:
Literary reading increases
Demographics of literature readers
Trends in media and literary preferences
A tale of two Americas
The NEA research brochure Reading on the Rise is based on early results from the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). SPPA is a periodic survey that has been conducted five times since 1982 using data obtained in partnership with the United States Census Bureau. Detailed results from the 2008 survey will be available in 2009. The 2008 SPPA survey has a sample size of more than 18,000 adults. The 2008 survey's literary reading questions - which form the focus of Reading on the Rise - were the same as in previous years: "During the last 12 months, did you read any a) novels or short stories; b) poetry; or c) plays?" Since 1992, the survey also has asked about book-reading. In 2008, the survey introduced new questions about reading preferences and reading on the Internet.
NEA literature initiatives
The issue of declining reading rates has been addressed by a number of public and private initiatives. The Arts Endowment has embraced the challenge with a range of programs to promote reading among young audiences. In 2003, the NEA launched Shakespeare in American Communities, the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history, reaching more than 21 million students through performances and educational resources. The Big Read, a partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, encourages communities to read, discuss, and celebrate selections from American and world literature. Poetry Out Loud: National Poetry Recitation Contest has introduced thousands of high school students nationwide to classic and contemporary poetry through this dynamic recitation competition.
NEA research resources
Since 1976, the NEA Office of Research & Analysis has issued periodic research reports, brochures, and notes on topics affecting arts and cultural policy and matters of vital interest to artists and arts organizations. Most recently, the NEA has produced reports on nonprofit theater, artist employment trends, and the arts and civic engagement. Reading on the Rise, along with other NEA research, is available for download at www.nea.gov/research.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest annual national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.
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