The Literacy Crisis

Low literacy is a hidden issue. Because of the stigma, people do not speak up about their struggle with reading. Over 30 million adults in the United States are negatively affected by their low reading levels every day. With every 1 in 5 adults reading below a 5th grade reading level, almost every day we may interact with someone struggling with low literacy without even realizing it. About 20% of adults who have high school diplomas are not functionally literate. Their low reading levels impacts their ability to hold a job, to find steady and safe housing, and even to stay healthy.

Here are some facts about the literacy crisis:

A mother’s reading level is the single greatest predictor of a child’s academic success. Mothers with strong literacy skills are able to pass them along to their children. Reading aloud to young children exposes them to new words and ideas, preparing them to enter school. Children with basic literacy and word recognition skills are much more likely to succeed in school, and will read almost twice as many words each year than children without these skills. Children whose families do not teach them basic literacy skills are almost 4 times more likely to drop out of school later on. A disadvantaged student will have a vocabulary half the size of their classmates upon entering the 2st grade. The literacy crisis is cyclical--by helping one family member develop strong literacy skills, that person is able to pass along that knowledge to future generations.

60% of prison inmates have low reading levels. People with low reading levels are much more likely to be incarcerated. Almost 70% of people arrested do not possess basic literacy skills. Almost 85% of juvenile offenders have reading problems. Developing literacy skills is an important part of rehabilitation and prevention of future incarcerations. People with higher reading levels have access to more resources, better job opportunities, and more social and economic supports.

75% of Americans receiving government assistance have low reading levels. A disproportionate number of people living at the poverty level do not have basic literacy skills and have no means of becoming employed. Each year, over $20 billion in potential earning is lost, at the cost of the economy and tax payers. In every country, improving the literacy rate increases the GDP as well. By providing adults with literacy skills, they have access to better jobs, safe housing, better health care, more social support, and are able to help family members achieve high literacy.