Published September 12, 2018
A new government study finds that fiction reading is down, poetry is up and adult Americans are renewing their interest in museums, arts festivals and the performing arts.
On Wednesday, the National Endowment for the Arts published "U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017." According to the NEA, the percentage of adults reading fiction dropped from 45.2 percent in 2012 to 41.8 percent last year. Meanwhile, poetry reading surged from 6.7 percent to 11.7 percent, with the numbers especially strong among those aged 18-24.
Poetry sales in recent years have increased, driven at least in part by the rise of such Instagram favorites as Rupi Kaur and Tyler Knott Gregson.
"I suspect online platforms and social media have had a significant influence, as well as other robust, often coordinated outreach activities at both the local and national levels," said the NEA's director of literature, Amy Stolls.
"We see really exciting, creative efforts through our grants to publishers and presenters, writers-in-the-schools programs, fellowships to poets and our large national initiatives like the NEA Big Read and Poetry Out Loud, which turn many thousands of students and readers on to poetry each year, sometimes for the first time."
Reading overall is down: The percentage of adults reading a book not required by school or work fell to 52.7 percent in 2017, compared with 54.6 percent in 2012 and 56.6 percent in 2002.
"U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading" also showed a reverse of yearslong declines in going to museums and performing arts events, whether jazz concerts, stage musicals or dance and ballet. But attendance levels in most categories remain below those from 2002.
The NEA will release a more comprehensive report next year.