To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence

Heather Cope

National Endowment of the Arts
November 2007

Reading for fun is on the decline (you, therefore, must be
working), as are youth and adult reading proficiency rates. This new
report from the good NEA draws on numerous sources to paint a dim
picture of American literacy. (This is the second such study by Dana
Gioia's group; the first is here.)
Voluntary reading rates for teenagers and young adults are decreasing;
only 5 percent of high school graduates are proficient readers, and the
average American over 15 spends more than 140 minutes watching TV on
weekdays versus 20 minutes reading. Yet employers still consider reading
comprehension and writing skills very important, and strong readers,
who typically attain higher education levels, are likelier to be
employed and earn more money. The study also offers bleak numbers for
college students, three-quarters of whom read four or fewer non-assigned
books per year. Gioia and company cannot fully explain why
Americans are reading less (although the report posits that the bevy of
other entertainment options now available is detracting from books'
overall appeal). The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger offers some thoughts here. You can read the study here.

More By Author