News release: “After a one-year hiatus, Washington, DC returns to the top spot in the 13th annual survey of America’s Most Literate Cities by Central Connecticut State University. The study is conducted by Dr. Jack Miller, president emeritus of Central. It reports on a key measure of America’s social health by ranking the reading habits and resources of the nation’s 82 largest cities. The top 10 cities this year are:
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco
- Portland, Ore.
- St. Paul
The complete rankings are available online at: www.ccsu.edu/AMLC2016. According to Miller, “Being literate involves far more than being able to read. It involves actually reading. Exhibiting literate behavior is what America’s Most Literate Cities has assessed for 15 years. Do people in a city support bookstores, do they have an excellent library system, do they read a local newspaper, do they practice online literacy, and so on.”
Criteria for Literacy
The study ranks cities based on research data for six key indicators of their citizens’ use of literacy: booksellers, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, newspaper circulation, and periodical publishing resources. The information is compared against population rates in each city to develop a per capita profile of the city’s literacy. The online survey includes information on both the methodology of and the resources for the ranking (www.ccsu.edu/AMLC2016). Looking at multiple indicators of literate behaviors Miller says it becomes apparent that cities are not necessarily all high or all low on the indicators. That creates the possibility that a city can, or in the past may have, emphasized one or two of the literate behavior indicators, whether by focus or chance. Miller points out that some cities have invested in broadly accessible libraries with extensive holdings and numerous personnel. Cleveland, Ohio, for example, was 21st in overall ranking but 1st in libraries. Fort Wayne, Indiana was 49th overall, but 2nd in libraries. Similarly, Kansas City, Missouri was ranked 16th and 4th libraries; Tulsa, Oklahoma 25th and 8th; Toledo, Ohio 56th and 9th; and Columbus, Ohio 23rd and 10th.
“Perhaps this reflects a longstanding Midwestern value placed on libraries as community centers,” Miller observes.”