Americans Reading Less

Wet Paint - Oh How I Wished I Could Read! CartoonThe National Endowment for the Arts has completed a new study which found that Americans are reading less — even less than those who were already reading less in the last study.

The 99-page study, “To Read or Not to Read,” is being released Monday as a follow-up to a 2004 NEA survey, “Reading at Risk,” that found an increasing number of adult Americans were not even reading one book a year.

“To Read or Not to Read” gathers an array of government, academic and foundation data on everything from how many 9-year-olds read every day for “fun” (54 percent) to the percentage of high school graduates deemed by employers as “deficient” in writing in English (72 percent).


The report emphasizes the social benefits of reading: “Literary readers” are more likely to exercise, visit art museums, keep up with current events, vote in presidential elections and perform volunteer work.

“This should explode the notion that reading is somehow a passive activity,” [NEA chairman Dana] Gioia said. “Reading creates people who are more active by any measure. … People who don’t read, who spend more of their time watching TV or on the Internet, playing video games, seem to be significantly more passive.”

Gioia called the decline in reading “perhaps the most important socio-economic issue in the United States,” and called for changes “in the way we’re educating kids, especially in high school and college. We need to reconnect reading with pleasure and enlightenment.”

One wonders how much of these results are an artifact of the increasing demand for literacy rather than its decline. A generation ago, going to college was relatively rare and comparatively few people had to do much reading, let alone complex writing, on the job. That’s just no longer the case.

Further, the Internet/reading dichotomy is a false one. Granted that I’m perhaps an atypical user, virtually all of the vast amount of time I spend online is spent reading or writing. While video and photos are an increasingly large part of the Web experience, most of what’s out there is still text.

via OTB News

Image Credit: United Publishing

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. cas says:

    You’re not the only office worker who spends the vast majority of their time on line either reading or writing. Besides, most of the blogsphere also consists of text.

  2. floyd says:

    “”Besides, most of the blogsphere also consists of text.””

    Yeah, and then there’s all those road signs![lol]