What would your life be like if you didn’t know how to read?
Chances are, you wouldn’t be able to do your current job well, if at all. You wouldn’t understand many road signs, or any contracts that may need to be signed. It would be difficult or impossible to understand job applications, medical forms, or even letters and emails sent by family or friends. Grocery shopping would be done based on pictures, rather than labels.
If you think this life sounds difficult, you would be correct. This is the reality of adult illiteracy.
Literacy rates, even among adults, are declining across America. Less than half of adults are at a 6th grade or higher literacy level, and it is estimated that 3.6 million adults lack basic literacy skills. Many American adults fall into the category of “functionally illiterate”, which means they can get through day to day life decently, but wouldn’t be able to read or spell basic words.
The Organization for economic cooperation and development states, “Half of US adults can’t read a book written at the 8th grade level.”
Adult literacy rates in the US are affected by the way the school system handles literacy, grades, and reading standards. Proficiency is described in levels 1 through 4 and 5. Level 5, the highest level of proficiency, was combined with level 4 because not enough people were reaching it - only 2%. Only 12% of Americans are considered at the highest level of proficiency, even after Level 5 has been dissolved. Now, with lower standards creating fewer academic challenges, it can be expected that America’s literacy rate will continue to drop.
Although literacy skills may start at a young age, the benefits last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, literacy is something that many Americans still struggle with. Once someone is out of the school system, it is much harder to correct or fill in missing knowledge.
The best solution to the global literacy problem is engaging your child in activities that help develop their literacy skills. This could include tutoring, weekly trips to the library, or even reading them bedtime stories and helping them sound out the words.1