The British journal Education reported on results from the Literacy Skills for the World of Tomorrow study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and UNESCO. Their review of the research indicates that 15 year-old girls in all 43 countries surveyed are surpassing their male counterparts in literacy. Source: Girls out-read boys worldwide. (2003). Education, 109, 1, Retrieved November 14, 2007, from Academic Search Premier database. Full research report available at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/43/9/33690591.pdf

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Literacy Initiative for Empowerment ( LIFE) seeks by 2015 to help reduce by half the rate of adult illiteracy in the world. LIFE operations, a global strategy to raise awareness on the importance of literacy are country-led, respond to country-specific needs and priorities, and correspond to national capacities. Designed to further the goals of the UN Literacy Decade (2003-2012), LIFE is being implemented in 35 countries with a literacy rate of less than 50 per cent or a population of more than 10 million illiterates.
Source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?newsid=19773&cr=literacy&cr1 =

“A poll commissioned by Teletext in 2007 questioned 4,000 adult readers on their reading habits. The survey found the top 10 fiction books that Britons cannot finish are:
1) Vernon God Little, D.B.C Pierre (35%)
2) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K Rowling (32%)
3) Ulysses, James Joyce (28%)
4) Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis De Bernieres (27%)
5) Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (24%)
6) The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie (21%)
7) The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho (19%)
8) War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (18%)
9) The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy (16%)
10) Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky (15%)”
-“A survey of 1,000 people for Bedtime Reading Week 2002 found the most popular place to read was in bed (65% of the sample). 25% relax with a book in the bath, 10% take a book to the loo (mainly men), almost half like to read on holiday and a third read on the journey to work. Over a third of those interviewed said they wish they had more time to read.”
-“Surveys by Muse, BML, DCMS, CIPFA in 2006 found that 47% of UK adults are registered with their local library”
-“A survey by Book Marketing for World Book Day 2001 found that the average British reader reads for between 4 and 6 hours a week. In Scotland the average is 5.8 hours. 54% said they read for relaxation or to relieve stress.”
Source: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/Database/stats/readingstats.html

“Iceland is full of readers. Iceland has the highest number of book readers per head of population in the world. This correlates with the fact that it has a near 100 percent functional literacy rate.”
Source: Literacy in Iceland from Australian School Library Association Inc. (ASLA) http://www.asla.org.au/pubs/access/a_commentary_180204.htm

According to the 2000-20004 estimated figures from the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) Institute for Statistics, China has a 90.9% literacy rate and an illiterate population of 87 million.
Source: http://www.accu.or.jp/litdbase/stats/chn/index.htm

The latest National Endowment for the Arts report draws on a variety of sources, public and private, and essentially reaches one conclusion: Americans are reading less. The 99-page study, “To Read or Not to Read,” was released November 19, 2007 as a follow-up to a 2004 NEA survey, “Reading at Risk,” that found an increasing number of adult Americans were not even reading one book a year.
Among the key findings:
Americans are reading less – teens and young adults read less often and for shorter amounts of time compared with other age groups and with Americans of previous years.
• Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004.1
• On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.2
Americans are reading less well – reading scores continue to worsen, especially among teenagers and young males. By contrast, the average reading score of 9-year-olds has improved.
• Reading scores for 12th-grade readers fell significantly from 1992 to 2005, with the sharpest declines among lower-level readers.3
• 2005 reading scores for male 12th-graders are 13 points lower than for female 12th-graders, and that gender gap has widened since 1992.4
• Reading scores for American adults of almost all education levels have deteriorated, notably among the best-educated groups. From 1992 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped by 10 points, a 20 percent rate of decline.5
The declines in reading have civic, social, and economic implications – Advanced readers accrue personal, professional, and social advantages. Deficient readers run higher risks of failure in all three areas.
• Nearly two-thirds of employers ranked reading comprehension “very important” for high school graduates. Yet 38 percent consider most high school graduates deficient in this basic skill.6
• American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.7
• Literary readers are more likely than non-readers to engage in positive civic and individual activities – such as volunteering, attending sports or cultural events, and exercising.8
Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071119/ap_en_ot/books_nea_study

Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004.1
On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.2
Source: http://www.nea.gov/news/news07/TRNR.html