Reading and Literacy Statistics

The following statistics and quotes from Dan Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, are from the 2007 NEA Report “To Read or Not To Read,” a comprehensive analysis of reading patterns of children, teenagers, and adults in the United States, which assembled data on reading trends from more than 40 sources, including federal agencies, universities, foundations, and associations. The compendium expands the investigation of the NEA’s landmark 2004 report, “Reading at Risk”:

“The fact that nearly one-third of American teenagers drop out of school is deeply connected to declining literacy and reading comprehension. With lower levels of reading and writing ability, people do less well in the job market. Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement. Significantly worse reading skills are found among prisoners than in the general adult population. And deficient readers are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life, most notably in volunteerism and voting…. The habit of daily reading overwhelmingly correlates with better reading skills and higher academic achievement. On the other hand, poor reading skills correlate with lower levels of financial and job success…. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed.” -– Dana Gioia, Chairman, NEA

* Children who read well do better in other subjects, and in all aspects of school and beyond.

* Reading skills correspond directly to one’s ability to…
- be an informed citizen
- communicate effectively
- earn a higher salary
- succeed in one’s chosen career, and
- achieve personal fulfillment
* Literary readers are:
-  3 times as likely to attend a performing arts event
-  4 times as likely to visit an art museum
-  2 1/2 times as likely to do volunteer or charity work
-  1 1/2 times as likely to attend sporting events, and
-  1 ½ times as likely to participate in sports activities.

* Less than half (48%) of the adult [American] population now reads literature for pleasure. This decline in reading literature occurs across all ages, sexes and races. The decline is most pronounced among the young.
* The percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period. Yet the amount they read for school or homework (15 or fewer pages daily for 62% of students) has stayed the same.

(National Endowment for the Arts – “To Read or Not to Read”; corroborated by “Adult Literacy in America” a report from the National Center for Educational Statistics)

Additional Statistics:

More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage.
(National Institute for Literacy, Fast Facts on Literacy, 2001)

50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book.
(Jonathan Kozol, Illiterate America)

Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 – 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.
(National Adult Literacy Survey, NCES, U.S. Department of Education)

It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to business and the taxpayer is $20 billion per year.
(United Way, “Illiteracy: A National Crisis”)

By the time they become college seniors, one in three students read nothing at all for pleasure in a given week.
(National Endowment for the Arts, “To Read or Not to Read” )