The ten basic points of the report are:
- The percentage of adult Americans reading literature has dropped dramatically over the last 20 years.
- The decline in literary reading parallels a decline in total book reading.
- The rate of decline in literary reading is accelerating.
- Women read more literature than men do, but literary reading by both groups is declining in significant rates.
- Literary reading is declining among whites, African Americans, and Hispanics.
- Literary reading is declining among all educational levels.
- Literary reading is declining among all age groups.
- The steepest decline in literary reading is in the youngest age groups.
- The decline in literary reading foreshadows and erosion in cultural and civic participation.
- The decline in reading correlates with increased participation in a variety of electronic media, including the Internet, video games, and portable digital devices.
In a strange way this report encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing. It is the hard evidence that I needed to let me know that what I’ve seen with my own eyes is in fact the trend I believed it to be – that people in America have stopped reading. Maybe my storefront closing has been a blessing. Maybe that is exactly what needed to happened so that I could do this work.
This report presents the results from the literature segment of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002 at the NEA’s request. The survey asked more than 17,000 adults if during the previous 12 months they had read any novels, short stories, poetry or plays in their leisure time, that were not required for work or school. The report extrapolates and interprets data on literary reading and compares them with results from similar surveys carried out in 1982 and 1992.