Archive for Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Study: Fewer people reading literature

Library reports lower circulation of books

July 13, 2004


Fewer books are circulating at the Lawrence Public Library and fewer Americans are reading literature, according to Lawrence library officials and a new national study.

"Certainly, it's easier to watch television or play a video game," said Bruce Flanders, director of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. "But it's also more beneficial to have a sense of connection where someone really has something to say and (is) speaking through a fine book."

But fewer than half of American adults now read literature, according to the new study by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The study, "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America," compared data collected in 1982, 1992 and 2002. According to the report, literary reading for recreation declined by 14 percent between 1982 and 2002.

"Literature reading is fading as a meaningful activity, especially among younger people," the report concluded.

The steepest decrease in literary reading was in the 18-24 age group. Between 1982 and 2002, the percentage of people in that group reading literature decreased by 28 percent.

Fewer books were checked out at the Lawrence library in 2003 than in 2002, Flanders said. In 2003, there were 460,547 book checkouts; 25,293 fewer than in 2002, but more than the 442,869 checkouts in 2001.

But despite the decline in book circulation, visits to the library have increased and, overall, more materials, such as audio books, movies, compact discs and CD-ROMs, are being circulated now than in the past couple of years.

Flanders said he suspected that although fewer people were reading literary fiction, more people were reading nonfiction and self-help books.

Number of items annually checked out from the Lawrence Public Library.
Year Total number Books
2003 787,740 460,547
2002 780,098 485,840
2001 699,453 442,869
2000 609,940 428,697

"I think there's strong evidence in Lawrence -- where there is a high degree of educational attainment -- that reading is valued," he said. "I find where education is important, reading is important."

According to the "Reading at Risk" report, 17,135 adults were surveyed in 2002 as part of the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Study. The survey didn't distinguish among the various types of literature but lumped mysteries, science fiction, contemporary and classical literature together for study purposes.

Other facts form the "Reading at Risk" study¢ Women read more literature than men, but literary reading by both groups is declining. Forty-nine percent of men in 1982 responded that they read books, while 37.6 percent gave a positive answer in 2002. Fifty-five percent of women said in 2002 that they read books, 8 percent less than the 63 percent of women who gave a positive response in 1982.¢ Generally, the higher an education level a person has the more likely that person will read literature. Literary reading among college graduates or graduate students decreased by 15 percent between 1982 and 2002 and by 20 percent for people with some college.text Read the report: Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America

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