Approximately 32 million adults in the United States can’t read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 50 percent of U.S. adults can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level.
Low literacy skills have stark ramifications for the next generation and our communities. The children of parents with low literacy skills are more likely to live in poverty as adults and are five times more likely to drop out of school.
Other consequences of an individual’s illiteracy include limited ability to obtain and understand essential information, lower income, lower-quality jobs, precarious financial position and low self-esteem, according to the Literacy Foundation.
Motivating children to read is an important factor in student achievement and creating lifelong successful readers. Research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.
The unemployment rate is two to four times higher among those with little schooling than among those with bachelor’s degrees. Illiterate individuals have more workplace accidents, take longer to recover and more often misuse medication through ignorance of health care resources and because they have trouble reading and understanding the relevant information.
Illiteracy doesn’t just affect an individual. Since literacy is an essential tool for individuals and states to be competitive in the new global knowledge economy, many positions remain vacant for lack of personnel adequately trained to hold them. The higher the proportion of adults with low literacy proficiency is, the slower the overall long-term GDP growth rate is. The difficulty understanding societal issues lowers the level of community involvement and civic participation.
Without the basic tools necessary for achieving their goals, individuals without an adequate level of literacy cannot be involved fully and on a completely equal basis in social and political discourse.
While the stats are worrisome, there are things that can be done here in Kingman to combat illiteracy at all levels. There is a chance to help tutor those who can’t read or aren’t proficient at reading with the Kingman Area Literacy Program. There is also plenty of open access to the library as well as the Mohave County Community College Library at the Neal Campus.
The Friends of the Library are hosting a book sale today and Saturday, so now is as good a time as any to support reading. Today is also Read Across America Day. Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss.
Illiteracy has many faces. Young dropouts, forest industry workers, young single mothers, female immigrant textile workers, men, women, young people or pensioners can all be illiterate. It is wrong to think that illiterate individuals live far away from us. On the contrary, they are close by, here among us, but are ashamed to reveal their difficulties.
Illiterate individuals rarely admit to having trouble reading and writing. They are ashamed of this condition and think they are the only one in this situation. Generally they have low self-esteem and feel very vulnerable when faced with anyone who might seem more “educated” than they are. Some will exhibit submissiveness or become aggressive in a situation they do not fully understand.
It is important to combat this negative stigma around illiteracy, just as it is important to fight the illiteracy problem.
Encourage children to read, encourage young adults to continue reading, and in honor of Dr. Seuss, grab a book today, plop down and read.