A 2007 research report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) about the state of reading in the United States reached three startling conclusions that are still being debated: Americans are spending less time reading; reading comprehension skills are eroding; and these declines have serious civic, social, cultural and economic implications.
Sunil Iyengar, director of the NEA Office of Research and Analysis that produced “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence,” will discuss the report, its potential consequences and the public reaction at noon on Thursday, May 8
, in the Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Executive summaries of the report will be available.
Sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the program is free and open to the public.
In his preface, NEA chairman Dana Gioia describes the story told by “To Read or Not to Read,” which he calls “the most complete and up-to-date report of the nation’s reading trends,” as simple, consistent and alarming. He cites declines in reading among teenage and adult Americans and among college graduates but emphasizes that these negative trends have more than literary importance—they affect civic society as a whole. He also explains that while it incorporates some statistics from the NEA’s 2004 report, “Reading at Risk,” the new study contains more data.
Iyengar also manages a national evaluation study for the NEA’s The Big Read project. His office is responsible for the U.S. Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Prior to joining NEA in 2006, he worked successively as a reporter, managing editor and senior editor for a series of news publications. He was a board member of the American Poetry and Literacy Project, co-founded by Andrew Carroll and Poet Laureate Joseph Brodsky.
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. The Center for the Book was created in 1977 to use the resources of the Library to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its program, publications and reading promotion partnership networks, visit www.loc.gov/cfbook/