In the United States, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 16 read no better than the average elementary school child.In Lee County, Fla., close to 82,000 adults are illiterate — either because they never learned to read/write, or because they don’t speak English.

That brings us to the impact of Literacy.

Literacy is the basis for all other education. Literacy is essential to eradicate poverty, improve infant mortality rates, address gender inequality and create sustainable development. Without literacy skills — the abilities to read, write, do math, solve problems and 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 (ProLiteracy).

Adults Need Strong Literacy Skills. . . .

  • To raise children who have strong literacy skills. Learning to read begins when parents read to their children, buy their children books and encourage their children to read. Children who are not read to enter school less prepared for learning than other children. The essence of Family Literacy is that parents are supported as the first teachers of their children.
  • To be good employees. Workers must be able to read safety regulations and warnings so they can stay safe on the job. They need to communicate clearly with their co-workers if they are to be productive.
  • To keep themselves and their families healthy. Understanding a doctor’s orders, calculating how much medicine to take, reading disease-prevention pamphlets—are all ways adults can keep themselves and their families healthy. Research has found “extensive evidence that low literacy, poor health and early death are inexorably linked” (National Institute for Literacy, 1998).
  • To be active in their communities, advocate for themselves and avoid human rights abuse. People must be aware of their rights in order to assert them. Low literacy adults are less likely to vote than strong readers.
  • To avoid crime. There is a clear correlation between adult illiteracy and crime. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, 70 percent of inmates admitted to Florida’s prison system in 2004-2005 were found to be functionally illiterate.