Children’s and young adult literature was the fastest-growing category in 2011, according to the annual industry survey BookStats, co-produced by the association.
Why the increase? The most basic answer is that people love to read, Sporkin wrote in an email, “and they will do so with all the kinds of books, in all the formats, offered to them. Following the popularity of several blockbuster titles and franchises such as the Harry Potter series a few years ago, publishers actively sought out authors and books that continue to appeal to the YA audience and this effort has proven successful.”
The most recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts showed a striking reversal in long term downward reading trends among young adults ages 18-24.
For two decades readers in that age bracket showed significant declines in reading for pleasure but from 2002-2008 they rose 21 percent, a change greater than any other age group, according to the 2008 survey “Reading on the Rise.” The report defined “literary” reading as the reading of any novels, short stories, poems, or plays in print or online. It does not include nonfiction.
There were other changes. For the first time in the survey’s history literary reading increased among both men and women. Male reading of literature grew 11 percent and women increased already higher reading rates. New growth among adult literary readers was in fiction while reading in poetry and drama continued to decline.
The survey said the U.S. adult population can now be divided into two almost equally sized groups — readers and nonreaders — with a slight majority of American adults now reading literature or books. While population change grew the overall number of adults reading any book not required for work or school, the percentage of adults in this category dropped from 56 percent in 2002 to 54 percent in 2008.
Why does reading for enjoyment matter? The survey notes that studies show reading is an important indicator of positive behavior. Literary readers tend to attend arts and sports events, play sports, do outdoor activities, exercise and volunteer at higher rates than nonreaders.