28 January, 2009

Fiction Reading Increases for Adults

The "Oprah" effect is credited with an increase in fiction reading

A report in the New York Times recently gives the perhaps surprising news that fiction reading has increased for adults.

After years of bemoaning the decline of a literary culture in the United States, the National Endowment for the Arts says in a report that it now believes a quarter-century of precipitous decline in fiction reading has reversed.

The report, “Reading on the Rise: A New Chapter in American Literacy,” being released Monday, is based on data from “The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts” conducted by the the US Census Bureau in 2008. Among its chief findings is that for the first time since 1982, when the bureau began collecting such data, the proportion of adults 18 and older who said they had read at least one novel, short story, poem or play in the previous 12 months has risen.

The increase has been attributed to community reading programs, such as the One Book One City programs, to the Oprah Winfrey’s book club, the huge popularity of book series like “Harry Potter” and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight,” as well as the individual efforts of teachers, librarians, parents and civic leaders to create “a buzz around literature that’s getting people to read more in whatever medium.”

We have experienced a similar growth in our fiction borrowings, between 2007 & 2008 there was a 5% increase at our libraries. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in tough economic times people use public libraries more and this will also translate to more fiction borrowing and reading.

Reading a novel is a wonderful way to experience someone else's life, to get insights into how others think and behave. My current bedside reading is a Henning Mankell book, a Swedish detective story that features Kurt Wallandar, who solves murders around Ystad. There's something cooling about reading a novel set in cold, foggy, wet Sweden on a hot Melbourne night!

If you would like to share your bedside reading we are launching a new program soon that will be running at all libraries. It is an ongoing bookchat program designed to encourage and create opportunities for people to share reading experiences. Unlike the traditional Bookgroup format, Bedside Reads is designed for people who wish to share what they are currently reading without having to read a set book. We will be putting all the details on our Yarra Plenty Reads when the program starts in February.

Are you reading more fiction? Let us know!

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