Reading on the Rise

January 17th, 2009

Is it as cold in your neck of the woods as it is in mine? I have no business complaining – the Pacific Northwest, where temperatures are hovering around freezing, is positively balmy compared to other parts of the country right now. A friend I talked to in Ohio on Friday afternoon reported that it was nine degrees outside, while a colleague in Minnesota topped that at 21 below. And the girls in a Chicago-area mother-daughter book club that I visited with via Skype over the weekend had been home from school for several days because classes were cancelled due to the extreme cold.
 

Here’s some news to warm the hearts of readers and writers everywhere, though. Earlier this week, The Christian Science Monitor reported that a new study by the National Endowment for the Arts shows reading among American adults is on the rise for the first time in 25 years.

 

Reversing decades of decline, the number of literary readers – those who read novels, short stories, plays, or poetry – has grown significantly, and across the board amongst all ethnic groups. According to the NEA, “reading is an important indicator of positive individual and social behavior patterns,” including everything from volunteerism to attendance at arts and sports events, and even participation in outdoor activities and exercise.
 

For the first time in the survey’s history, literary reading has increased amongst both men and women. And what’s even better, in my opinion, is that the largest jump is amongst young adults (18-24), which certainly bodes well for the future of the publishing industry.

 

So take that, cultural pessimists! Take that, everyone who’s been predicting the demise of books, and reading, and literature! If this isn’t news to ring in the new year and “drive the cold winter away,” as one of my favorite traditional carols puts it, I don’t know what is.

 

 

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