AUGUSTA (AP) – Read any good books lately? The National Endowment for the Arts says you probably haven’t.

A new study by the NEA says the number of Americans who read fiction, poetry and drama is dropping at alarming levels. The NEA says 47 percent of Americans read a fiction book in the last year, down from 57 percent 20 years ago.

“This report documents a national crisis,” NEA Chairman Dana Giola said in a prepared statement. “The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in adult literacy.”

Richard Sibley of the Waterville Public Library said trends he sees back up the NEA’s figures.

“I don’t see the number of people borrowing books that I used to see. There are more videos being borrowed and fewer books and magazines. That includes almost all ages,” Sibley said.

The number of books borrowed annually from the Waterville library has dropped almost a third in 10 years, from roughly 150,000 to 107,000.

The NEA study does not give reasons for the reading decline, other than to note that Americans who watch many hours of television read little.

Others note that Americans are working longer hours, taking fewer vacations, spending more time with other entertainment options such as surfing the Internet.

“To actually sit down for 20 minutes and do nothing but read is something we don’t allow ourselves to do anymore,” said Beth Sweet, director of Hubbard Free Library in Hallowell, which has not seen book circulation decline.

Elsewhere in Maine, the Pittsfield Public Library also reports no decline in borrowing, and Lithgow Library in Augusta said its book circulation numbers are increasing.


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