Help Illiterate Adults Get The Support They Need

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Sponsor: The Literacy Site

More than a fifth of all U.S. adults struggle with reading. Demand support for programs that can help them overcome illiteracy!


Despite being the largest economy in the world, a staggering 21% of adults in the U.S. are either completely or functionally illiterate. The U.S. trails significantly behind many countries with smaller economies, including Japan, the UK, Canada, all of the Scandinavian countries, and South Korea1.

Nationwide, adult illiteracy has proved an intractable problem, linked to stubborn societal issues such as poverty and failing schools2.

Low literacy individuals struggle to find employment; they settle for low-paying jobs; they fight to increase their earning power and to support their families. They under-utilize the healthcare system out of fear, or over-utilize it because they are unable to follow written instructions on prescriptions or discharge papers3.

The sad reality is, US adult literacy rates are no better than they were 25 years ago.

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey4, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th-grade level, meaning they lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower paying jobs.

The Department of Justice states, ?The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure. When inmates who left school before receiving a high school diploma where asked the main reason they dropped out of school, about one-third reported they lost interest or experienced academic difficulty5.

The fact is, the seeds of illiteracy are planted at a young age. A mother's reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children's future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income. U.S. adults with low levels of education who have parents with low levels of education are 10 times more likely to have low skills than are those who have higher-educated parents6.

Since the mid-1960s, the Federal Government has played a critical role in providing education services to adults with inadequate literacy skills, especially through the Adult Education Act (AEA), which supports adult literacy and basic skills education7.

These programs have helped millions of Americans learn the skills they need to thrive.

Sign the petition and demand increased federal support for the Adult Education Act (AEA) and adult reading programs.

More on this issue:

  1. World Literacy Foundation (2020), "Is America's Adult Literacy Problem Serious?."
  2. Melissa Block, Marisa Penaloza (26 April 2018), "Casting Aside Shame And Stigma, Adults Tackle Struggles With Literacy."
  3. The Literacy Center (2021), "Why Literacy Matters."
  4. National Assessment of Adult Literacy, U.S. Department of Education (2003), "Prison Literacy."
  5. Literacy Mid-South (16 March 2016), "The Relationship Between Incarceration and Low Literacy."
  6. United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment, (30 September 1993), "Adult Literacy and New Technologies: Tools for a Lifetime."
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The Petition:

To the Secretary of Education and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education,

Despite being the largest economy in the world, more than a fifth of all adults in the U.S. struggle with reading.

Low literacy individuals struggle to find employment; they settle for low-paying jobs; they fight to increase their earning power and to support their families. They under-utilize the healthcare system out of fear, or over-utilize it because they are unable to follow written instructions on prescriptions or discharge papers.

And it only gets worse from there.

At least 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th?grade level. They lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower (paying) jobs.

Illiteracy is an incipient and destructive problem in the U.S. but programs funded by the Adult Education Act have done much to help adults avoid that problem. I demand you increase support for the AEA, and promise a brighter future for all Americans!

Sincerely,

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