I am of the opinion that these doom and gloom statistics are not very accurate at all. In fact, I believe that more people are reading now that in years past. I could be wrong about this, but the things that I have seen as a bookseller and in general would point to an increase in reading.
We can blame it on Harry Potter and DaVinci Code. Two of the biggest pop-culture phenomena of my generation, and they were books! How amazing is that?
My thoughts on any so-called decline are this: When I was growing up, there was not much to choose from in juvie and YA sections. In fact, these areas were pretty damn stagnant. Kids today have it lucky! There is a huge amount to choose from these days. Today's youth are not anxiously awaiting LJ Smith's final Night World installment (still waiting, btw). No, they have Stephanie Meyer whose sales are phenomenal, they have the Eragon books, they have so much to browse and look at with new stuff coming every week that someone my age can't help but be jealous.
No, I remember RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley, and Lurlene McDaniel. LJ Smith was there later as were Richie Tankersly Cusick, Diane Hoh, and a few others. You could probably count them all on two hands. The "readers" in my school quickly moved onto adult books and never really looked back. So, I have no problem seeing how gen-x and older gen-y folk aren't readers today. But, here's where Dan Brown comes in. It is my opinion that people my age who would never before have considered themselves readers are picking up books. They are interested in what's out now, partially thanks to the controversy drummed up by DaVinci and other titles. I think the lack of selection as a kid turned them off before and now they are finally opening their eyes and seeing what a huge amount there is out there now.
Obviously I am one of the hopeful ones. I believe that all it takes is a little excitement to get someone hooked for life. Stale choices and, I might add, tired teachers teaching the same old stuff had to have played a big role in this "decline," but I think we've more than bounced back. And, I think it's just going to get better from here on out.