The National Endowment for the Arts has released a report on American reading habits,To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence. An excerpt:
The story the data tell is simple, consistent, and alarming. Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years. There is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans. Most alarming, both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates. These negative trends have more than literary importance. As this report makes clear, the declines have demonstrable social, economic, cultural, and civic implications.
How does one summarize this disturbing story? As Americans, especially younger Americans, read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they have lower levels of academic achievement. (The shameful 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.
NEA Announces New Reading Study (NEA press release)
To Read or Not to Read (.pdf download)