Why literacy is important
In the United States, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 16 read no better than the average elementary school child. Worldwide, nearly 800 million adults are illiterate in their native languages; two-thirds of them are women. Yet the ability to read and write is the basis for all other education; literacy is necessary for an individual to understand information that is out of context, whether written or verbal. Literacy is essential if we are to eradicate poverty at home and abroad, improve infant mortality rates, address gender inequality, and create sustainable development. Without literacy skills—the abilities to read, to write, to do math, to solve problems, and to access and use technology—today’s adults will struggle to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as parents, community members, and employees.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT LITERACY
• Literacy is the ability to read, write, compute, and use technology at a level that enables an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member.
• There are 759 million adults--approximately 16 percent of the world's population--who have only basic or below basic literacy levels in their native languages.
• Two-thirds of the world’s lowest literate adults are women.
• In the U.S., 63 million adults — 29 percent of the country’s adult population —over age 16 don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level.
• An additional 30 million — 14 percent of the country’s adult population — can only read at a fifth grade level or lower.
• Forty-three percent of adults with the lowest literacy rates in the United States live in poverty.
• The United States ranks fifth on adult literacy skills when compared to other industrialized nations.
• Adult low literacy can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States:
◦ More than 65 percent of all state and federal corrections inmates can be classified as low literate.
◦ Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $236 billion each year in the U.S.
◦Seventy-seven million Americans have only a 2-in-3 chance of correctly reading an over-the-counter drug label or understanding their child's vaccination chart.
◦Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
• Globally, illiteracy can be linked to:
◦Gender abuse, including female infanticide and female circumcision
◦Extreme poverty (earning less than $1/day)
◦High infant mortality and the spread of HIV/Aids, malaria, and other preventable infectious diseases
~ Changing Lives Every Day ~