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Empowering the Next Generation: Combating Illiteracy Rates in America

Updated: Apr 1

a woman reading to several children with the post title Empowering the Next Generation: Combating Illiteracy Rates in America on

Are you aware of the prevailing literacy crisis both globally and within our own country? Amidst the ongoing events capturing our attention, this issue might have gotten lost in the shuffle but it remains a significant concern deserving of our focus. This literacy crisis is based off of the high numbers of illiteracy rates in America, but what exactly does that mean?

  • Roughly 12% of the world's population finds themselves either fully illiterate, unable to read at all, or functionally illiterate, possessing only basic or below-basic reading skills.

  • In the United States specifically, 21% of adults fall within these two categories.

  • An alarming 66% of American high school graduates exhibit reading skills below the expected grade level.

These statistics are highly concerning. Certain demographics face a heightened risk of low reading proficiency, such as those living in poverty who may have limited access to reading materials, or non-native English speakers who may struggle with comprehension in an English-speaking environment. However, the literacy crisis extends across all demographics.

But why should we be concerned?

Low reading skills among adults can result in challenges in securing and retaining employment. Employment difficulties, in turn, can lead to poverty, which often correlates with inadequate access to healthcare. Moreover, illiteracy is associated with higher rates of crime, with a significant portion of incarcerated individuals falling into the category of low functional or fully illiterate.

Understanding the root causes is essential in addressing the issue:

  • Intergenerational patterns of illiteracy within families

  • Limited access to books and educational resources

  • Insufficient emphasis on the importance of reading skills

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The crucial question then becomes: How do we break this cycle?

One vital approach is ensuring early and consistent access to learning materials for children, both within educational settings and at home. Modeling a genuine interest in and appreciation for literacy is also crucial; children often model the behaviors and attitudes of adults around them. By fostering a culture of reading and ensuring books are readily available to children, we can make significant strides in combating the literacy crisis. By nurturing young readers from an early age, we can begin to erode the staggering statistics among adults.

Literary Crisis Infographic depicting illiteracy rates in the world and specifically in the US

Information compiled from the following sources:

How Serious is America's Literacy Problem? by Amy Rea,

Child Illiteracy in America: Facts, Statistics, and Resources by Regis College Master of Social Work,



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