The Literacy Challenge
By: Bill Halamandaris, Chairman and Co-Founder, The Heart of America Foundation
Reading is the keystone skill, the foundation of a successful life.
The statistics reinforcing this point and the consequences of illiteracy are staggering:
- Fifty percent of the nation’s chronically unemployed are not functionally literate. Forty three percent of adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency live in poverty compared with four percent of adults with strong literacy skills.
- More than one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.
- Seventy-five percent of school dropouts have reading problems.
- Children in the poorest families are six times as likely as children in more affluent families to drop out of school, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
- Eighty-five percent of all juveniles who encounter the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, as are 70 percent of all prison inmates.
- So strong is the link between literacy and being a useful member of society that many states consider fourth grade-level reading statistics in projecting future prison construction.
So, if the literacy challenge is that compelling, what do we do about it? A problem of this depth and dimension does not yield to simple solutions.
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About the above article: The Community Affairs Council is launching a new article series which will feature a monthly article on a literacy topic authored by one of our community partners and/or literacy-focused organizations in the DC area.