I’ve always kind of had a sense that adult literacy is an issue. Think about it: if you cannot read, you are effectively separated from most of the professional, online, and even some social worlds. However, I had no idea how pervasive this problem is in our nation, especially in my own state! Here are some facts from ProLiteracy.
- Internationally, 16% of people are non-literate. Most of these are women.
- In the U.S., 14% of adults over 16 are reading below a fifth grade level
- Among those with the lowest literacy levels in the U.S., 43% live in poverty.
- The greatest indicator of a child’s future scholastic success is the education level of their parents.
- 75% of state inmates and 59% of federal prison inmates can be classified as low literate
- Low literacy adds an estimated $230 billion to the country’s annual healthcare costs
As you can see, besides the tragedy of disconnectivity from the world caused by an individual’s inability to read, adult low-literacy is a huge problem on a societal scale.
So, what can we do to change that? Fortunately, we can do quite a bit. Here are some ideas.
1. Lobby the state and municipal government in your state to provide more funding for adult education programs. Also, ask them to care more about education in general. Somewhere along the line, many of these low-literate adults were in the school system.
2. Tutor adults through the local adult education programs. There are a lot of people that volunteer to tutor children, but I rarely hear of large groups of people showing that same commitment to adults.
3. Donate to a non-profit addressing the issue of adult literacy in your area. In Atlanta, a great organization called Literacy Action is doing amazing work raising the adult literacy levels in Georgia. There are many places like them (and some even modeled after them) in other areas. Find one near you and offer your time, I am sure they could use it!
I hope this helps us all develop our own ways to help individuals that cannot read. Let me know how it goes!