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Monday, 19th November 2007

National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Reading Study

National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Reading Study

Today, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announces the release of To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, a new and comprehensive analysis of reading patterns in the United States. To Read or Not To Read gathers statistics from more than 40 studies on the reading habits and skills of children, teenagers, and adults. The compendium reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike, exposing trends that have severe consequences for American society.
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Among the key findings:

Americans are reading less - teens and young adults read less often and for shorter amounts of time compared with other age groups and with Americans of previous years.

  • Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004.
  • On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.

Americans are reading less well – reading scores continue to worsen, especially among teenagers and young males. By contrast, the average reading score of 9-year-olds has improved.

  • Reading scores for 12th-grade readers fell significantly from 1992 to 2005, with the sharpest declines among lower-level readers.
  • 2005 reading scores for male 12th-graders are 13 points lower than for female 12th-graders, and that gender gap has widened since 1992.
  • Reading scores for American adults of almost all education levels have deteriorated, notably among the best-educated groups. From 1992 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped by 10 points, a 20 percent rate of decline.

The declines in reading have civic, social, and economic implications – Advanced readers accrue personal, professional, and social advantages. Deficient readers run higher risks of failure in all three areas.

  • Nearly two-thirds of employers ranked reading comprehension "very important" for high school graduates. Yet 38 percent consider most high school graduates deficient in this basic skill.
  • American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.
  • Literary readers are more likely than non-readers to engage in positive civic and individual activities – such as volunteering, attending sports or cultural events, and exercising.

+ Executive Summary (PDF: 819 KB)
+ Full Report (PDF; 3.3 MB)

Source: National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

See Also: The Nation’s Report Card: 2007 Trial Urban District Assessment in Reading (via National Center for Education Statistics)

This report presents results for four years of trial school-district-level reading assessments in NAEP at grades 4 and 8. Five urban public-school districts voluntarily participated in NAEP in 2002 and 2003: Atlanta City, City of Chicago School District 299, Houston ISD, Los Angeles Unified, and New York City Public Schools. In 2003, four additional districts participated: Boston School District, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Cleveland Municipal School District, and San Diego City Unified. In 2005 and 2007, Austin ISD also participated. Results are reported for these 10 districts and for the District of Columbia, which regularly participates in NAEP.


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