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"That City" to the South Most Literate in 2010

By Mary Beth Marklein
January 11, 2011

Washingtonians are the nation's most well-read citizens, but they're reading less these days. And so, it appears, are city dwellers everywhere.

That's according to the latest findings of an annual study of the United States' most literate cities, which ranks the "culture and resources for reading" in the nation's 75 largest metro areas. The study examines not whether people can read, but whether they actually do.

{Here's the complete list. Baltimore rebounded from 26 to 18, which is still shy of its high-water mark of 16 set in 2008. Review the ranking criteria and judge for yourself. Some interesting comments below, too.}

"What difference does it make how good your reading test score is if you never read anything?" asks researcher Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT. "One of the elements of the climate, the culture, the value of a city is whether or not there are people there that practice those kinds of behaviors."

The study, based on 2010, looks at measures for six items — newspapers, bookstores, magazines, education, libraries and the Internet — to determine what resources are available in each city and the extent to which its inhabitants take advantage of them.

Washington's climb to No. 1 this year was likely helped by troubles in Seattle, which has claimed or shared (with Minneapolis) the top spot four of the past five years. In recent years, Seattle has lost a newspaper and some legendary local bookstores have struggled.

Robert Lang, an urban planning and policy expert at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, acknowledges cause for concern but questions whether results necessarily mean people are reading less. "People are reading more things and less in depth. They're getting briefed," Lang says. "The bigger finding (is) what's consumed is different."

Complete USA Today article here.

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