A mere two weeks after I wrote about The Long Decline of Reading, which drew largely on the US National Endowment of Arts’ (NEA) 2007 data, the NEA promptly released a report (Reading on the Rise) showing that fiction reading rates significantly increased from 2002 to 2008. Not just for certain age groups or ethnicities, but for practically everyone. I don’t think anyone was expecting this, since reading rates have been declining ever since the NEA began its survey in 1982.
Despite the fact that the report has blown a gaping hole in the premise of my previous post, I’m very happy, particularly because the most dramatic increase in fiction reading was in the dreaded 18-24 age group. These guys, who have an excess of distracting media in their lives, increased their fiction reading by a full 21 percent, neatly reversing the 20 percent decline seen in the last survey. Other notable drastic increases were found among Hispanic and African-Americans.
It’s not clear whether this rise is a blip, attributable to ‘fads’ such as Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code, or whether the US’ attitude towards reading has been transformed by book clubs, an increased appreciation for the arts, and improved education (and, yes, also those fads). We’ll just have to wait until the next survey to find out, but it’s a pleasant piece of news that I hope will be mirrored in other countries.