Literacy by the Numbers

Not everyone likes to read. I get that, even if it makes my soul shudder in horror. But there is a lot more to reading that curling up with a great novel and a cup of hot chocolate (my favorite way to spend a winter evening).

Poor adult literacy is a huge setback in life. It greatly lowers career opportunities, and often creates a cycle within a family. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, children of illiterate parents are 72% more likely to be illiterate themselves. Children who struggle to read in first grade often decide they dislike reading. By fourth grade, a child’s reading level is a strong indicator of how literate they will be as adults. Giving children access to age appropriate books at a young age is vital in the battle against illiteracy.

70% of welfare recipients have low literacy levels. Low education is very closely linked with lower earnings, but it isn’t just family incomes suffering. The National Council for Adult Learning estimates that the U.S. loses $225 billion a year due to low productivity in the workforce, crime, and unemployment linked with low literacy.

Even more money, $232 billion, is spent on health care that could be avoided with higher literacy levels. Almost half of American adults have trouble understanding health care information and instructions. This means that they have difficulty making decisions that will get them the health care they need without incurring extra costs.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 75% of state prison inmates do not have a high school diploma or are illiterate. Inmates that receive an education while incarcerated are 43% less likely to return to prison.

I am just beginning to explore this issue, but as you can see, low literacy levels have a much deeper impact that simply missing out on the newest bestseller. As funding for literacy programs dries up, the problem continues to grow.

I’ll be doing more research to see what I can do to help. If you’d also like to pitch in, make sure you subscribe to my new posts to see how you can get involved.


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