Carr Crain on why he remains pessimistic about reading despite the recent National Endowment of the Arts report showing a reversal last year in a 25-year decline in reading. It’s a good consideration of several ways i which the data might be a mismeasure or a misleading anomaly.
Why aren’t I celebrating the new numbers about the reading of literature? First, the numbers are good, but they’re not that
Second, another of the NEA’s measures shows a continued, stubborn decrease. To the question "With the exception of books required for work or school, did you read any books during the last 12 months?" the proportion of respondents saying yes dropped from 56.6 percent in 2002 to 54.3 percent in 2008. The proportion of Americans who said in 2008 that they read some literature in the previous twelve months may be higher than it was in 2002, but it’s lower than it was in 1992, 1985, and 1982. Moreover, the same is true of the rates in the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old bracket. Over the longer span, we’re still talking about a decline.