Is Your State Well-Read? New Study Has the Answers

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

A new study has again turned attention toward the country’s reading habits. Find out below how well-read your state is.

The study, released by Face Dragons, uses data provided by Google Trends to compare how much each state reads and rank them from most to least well-read. I wanted to find out why some people and consequently states developed a love for reading while it filled others with dread.

So with the results in hand, I headed to the local high school here to find answers at the source – the high school English teacher.

Back to Highschool

Waiting by the locked school gates, it had been 20-something years since I took high school English. School was out for summer vacation, so no one was around, but it seemed the only proper place to meet a high school English teacher. Mrs. Alya stepped out of a taxi and introduced herself.

We walked the perimeter of the school as I asked her about the reading habits of her students.

“It’s easy to blame the obvious culprits,” Mrs. Alya started, “computer games, social media, and the like, but parental modeling plays a huge role in terms of which students love reading and which don’t. I ask students what their parents are reading, and the ones who struggle to answer are the ones who rarely read themselves.”

“So our kids will read if we read?” I asked.

“It’s more complicated than that but it won’t hurt. You also need to have choice and variety at home, you can’t blame a child for not wanting to read if all you have is a dusty set of Enid Blyton tucked away in a bookcase.”

On the walk home, my thoughts turned back to the study. Do the states towards the top better model the reading habit than those lower down the rankings?

The Rankings

The Face Dragons study uses Google search terms indicating reading intent to assess each state’s reading habits. A recent study by relied on public data such as the number of libraries and bookstores, but neither can reliably correspond to eyes on books. This study moves away from big data and looks at what individuals are searching for.

Terms typed into Google search, like “best books 2022”, “Book suggestions,” and “Bestsellers,” give us a much better idea of how many people are actually reading.

See the post on Face Dragons for the complete list of search terms and state ranking statistics.

The Top Five Well-Read States

  • Washington D.C.
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • Utah
  • Maine

The Bottom Five Well-Read States

  • Missouri
  • Kansas
  • Nevada
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina

While there are well-read people everywhere you go, the disparity between some states is statistically significant. Is it due to a lack of infrastructures like libraries or bookstores? The availability of inexpensive books online makes that unlikely.

Perhaps some states simply do a better job of modeling reading to the next generation.

How to Better Model Reading to Our Children

Mrs. Alya’s advice – to model reading and have various choices – is essential to hear. I often worry about the increasingly digital world my son inherits. Yet, as a homeschooling family, reading has always been paramount in our home.

On days I have too much to get done or don’t have time to dedicate to reading, I use these strategies and remember that by reading, I’m teaching my son to read too. The tips below focus on how to add some reading around what you already have to do. Try them out.

1. Make Reading Part of Your Morning Routine

In the mornings, I need espresso before I can take on the world. So when my son walks into the dining room each morning for breakfast, he sees a caffeinated version of me, book in hand. That’s my morning routine.

Aside from modeling a reading habit for my son, reading a chapter while sitting at the dining table with my little coffee is a calming way to start the day.

By reading first thing, I ensure that I always do it, giving me something to think about for the rest of the day. So this morning, I read Henry James’ “Daisy Miller.” Daisy’s travels around Europe and the cultural challenges she faces speak to my own life as an Englishman who has spent much of his life in Asia.

2. Use RSVP Apps for Speed and Fun

RSVP (Rapid Serial Visual Presentation) apps had a surge in popularity after Spritz released their service in 2014, spawning many clones. RSVP apps flash single words at the user so they can read without needing to move their eyes.

Not only does this method increase reading speed, but it also gives the user a brand new reading experience. It feels less like reading than downloading information directly into your brain.

I won’t be using it to read Henry James, but I enjoy the times I choose to use it.

3. Leave Your Book Out

At 20 years old, I moved out of my parent’s house and found an apartment overlooking the river in Tianjin, China. I was a continent away from them, and my Mom had plenty of advice for me. None of which I was interested in.

There was one thing she said that has stuck with me over the years, “If you put it away, you won’t use it.” The advice was originally about a juicer, which I immediately put away in a cupboard. But when I found it the day I moved out of the apartment, I had to admit, Mom was right.

Since then, I have always left juggling balls on my desk and a book on my dining table.