The National Endowment for the Arts released a new study called Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy on Monday, January 12, 2009 that said for the first time in over a quarter-century their survey shows that literary reading has risen among adult Americans.
The NEA first began surveying American reading habits in 1982 and the number of literary readers is now the highest in the surveys history. In 2008, approximately 113 million Americans did some kind of literary reading (novels, short stories, poems, or plays--in print or online). That means that there were 16.6 million new adult readers of literature since the previous study in 2002.
The exact reasons for the rise are unknown, but Dana Gioia, the chairman of the NEA, speculates that community-based book clubs, Oprah Winfrey, and series like Twilight and Harry Potter all played a role.
Jim Rettig, president of the American Library Association said that the 2008 data would not reflect a recent uptick in circulation at libraries. As the economy has soured, Mr. Rettig said, "people are discovering that you don't have to spend anything to read a book if you have a library card."