Top of page

Literacy Decline Mirrors Voluntary-Reading Rate

Share this post:

The National Endowment for the Arts has released its latest study lending more support to the notion that when students read less for pleasure throughout their lives, their overall reading achievement also declines. An analysis of several studies indicates that test scores and voluntary reading tend to go hand in hand.

From The New York Times article:

Among the findings is that although reading scores among elementary school students have been improving, scores are flat among middle school students and slightly declining among high school seniors. These trends are concurrent with a falloff in daily pleasure reading among young people as they progress from elementary to high school, a drop that appears to continue once they enter college. The data also showed that students who read for fun nearly every day performed better on reading tests than those who reported reading never or hardly at all.

The study also examined results from reading tests administered to adults and found a similar trend: The percentage of adults who are proficient in reading prose has fallen at the same time that the proportion of people who read regularly for pleasure has declined.

The Library of Congress works together with the NEA to promote reading through the National Book Festival, and the Library supports a host of other programs and initiatives, primarily through its Center for the Book.

The Library is also working with the Ad Council and other partners on our ongoing lifelong-literacy campaign, which encourages reading throughout young people?s lives. You can “Explore New Worlds” on our site at, which includes video PSAs and a game where you can create your own “Storybook Adventure.”

Comments (8)

  1. Oops, A bit quick on the submit key.

    I forgot to mention that the National Center for Education Statistics has just published a report on student reading levels in several cities.

    It’s linked at the very bottom of this post.

  2. Thanks, Gary, that’s definitely a useful “life hack”!

  3. Dr. Richard McCallum has recently started a discussion on the reading assessment and instruction and how together they can become a powerful tool in the process of learning to read. He has also explained the different types of assessment and how they affect reading instruction.

  4. Ok, on the issue of soliciting comments from the public: how about next time giving the public more than an eensy-teensy comment box and 16-day submission period at the beginning of the holiday season.

  5. It’s so very strange: the concept of somebody *not* reading for pleasure. Granted, these days I don’t have time for pleasure books that aren’t on audio, but still–I simply can’t fathom it when I hear that somebody “doesn’t like to read.” They can read, they’re literate, they just don’t “like” it. Has there ever been a study to figure out what’s wrong with these people…?

  6. I think what we need to do here is try non-traditional methods to increase interest of students.

    I personally think we are stuck with old ways of teaching. We are not exploring new methods to deliver information.

    Thats just me.

  7. After reading through the article, I just feel that I really need more info. Can you share some more resources please?

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.