The National Endowment for the Arts released their report “Reading on the Rise” on 12 January documenting that for the first time in 25 years, more Americans are reading.
An increase in readers? Excellent!
According to the demographic breakdown, young adults show the biggest increase (yay!) and fiction is the largest growing market in adult readers (also yay!).
Here’s my favorite statistic from the report: “Online readers also report reading books. 84% of adults who read literature (fiction, poetry, or drama) on or downloaded from the Internet also read books, whether print or online – and nearly 15 percent of all U.S. adults read literature online in 2008.”
While the article describes some of the items they surveyed as reading material, notably fiction, poems, and drama, I still find myself questioning what it is that the NEA considers reading?
Me, I read all the damn time. Whenever I’m around words, I’m compelled to read them. Subway ads, the backs of other people’s newspapers (obnoxious, I know), words on the tv screen – I can ignore people talking but words on screen attract my eyeballs like nothing else. And once I start reading, it’s a wonderful tunnel vision I have: everything else is gone. One measure of whether I’m really enjoying my book, aside from whether I take it out of my bag when I get home, is whether I miss my stop on the subway. Thanks to Gayle Wilson, I once ended up in WTF Station in Queens, loooong past my normal stop. Words are engrossing for me in a way that little else is, and since they’re visually irresistible for my very curious, nosy eyes (odd mental image, huh?) I am drawn to reading constantly, even things that are absolutely none of my business.
So yay, more reading. Since I’m the arbirter of, well, me, what I consider reading, I wonder how much more may count as reading that isn’t included in this survey. Is a teenager reading books and short stories or even text messages “reading?” Is following visual and written commands in a video game in part “reading?” So much of what is distributed is done digitally or in fluid text on screens, and I wonder, if I measured how many words I look at all day, how much of my time is really examining words in one form or another, aka reading. I’d have to say it’s probably an enormous percentage, from my morning commute to reading “I Stink!” at bedtime, I’m reading all the time.
What about you? Do you read more? Do you read more digitally or not? How much of your day is spent taking in and comprehending words?
[Thanks to Diane for the link.]
Also: for Garrison Keilor’s take on the study, check out his rumination on what people really want to read in Salon. Thank you to Marta Acosta for the link.]