Perhaps I missed it somewhere in the report, but I could not find the NEA’s definition of “literature”. The definition is hotly debated by academics. The people surveyed may not identify with the term such as “literature”. Moreover, the growing US population of Hispanic, Asian and African-American persons may come into play. Some of these persons may not readily find relevant “literature” in their local bookstores and libraries. Still others may read works in other languages, and thus not show up in counts of English literature — depending on how the survey defined “literature”. Furthermore, some Hispanic and African-American cultures draw heavily from the oral tradition — spoken stories and songs replace “literature”. I am amazed that the NEA did not consider cultural or class traditions in their report. They might also have considered that the growing population of seniors may have trouble reading small print books…or perhaps now turns to books on tape or video.

Of course, other factors may come into play, but you’d think that the survey would at least look at changes in US demographics.