literacy

Facts

Despite the best efforts of LeVar Burton and the rest of our friends at Reading Rainbow, a large number of Americans are unable to read at more then a minimum level of proficiency. About 4.7 million adults (2%), according to a 1992 survey, are completely illiterate and 49 million (21%) are classified in the lowest literacy level. While such a problem may not seem to affect us literates, some say illiteracy does have a vast impact on poverty and crime. On this page, sorry to say, we don't offer any solutions, but we give a glimpse at the extent of the problem.

Adult Literacy

Percent of adults who are non-literate:

  • 3%, or 7 million (could not answer basice test questions) NCES

Percent of adults categorized in the lowest literacy level*:

  • 14%, or 30 million NCES

*Those in the lowest literacy level could not perform basic tasks such as locating a specific piece of information in an article in an NCES survey.

Student Literacy

Percent of public school 4 th graders testing proficient* in reading NCES (2005):

  • 31%

States with a majority of students meeting National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) standards:

  • 0

*The NAEP defines proficient as “competency over challenging subject matter.”

Economic and racial disparity

Number of words the average child is exposed to by age 4, by economic status AFT

  • Professional class: 45 million
  • Working class: 26 million
  • Welfare class (children whose parents receive welfare): 13 million

So what's the big deal?

Reading and poverty

  • Percent of adults in the lowest literacy level living in poverty: 40% ECS (note on link: click on "Issues" and drop down to reading/literacy, then click on quick facts)
  • Percent of adults in the highest literacy level living in poverty: 5% ECS

Reading and crime

  • Percent of prisoners who perform at the lowest literacy level: almost 70% ECS

Get ‘em young

Percent of students behind in reading skills in 1st grade who were poor readers in 4th grade:

Percent of 3rd grade poor readers who remained poor readers in 9th grade:

It's all relative

According to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), a 2001 study comparing 4th grade literacy in countries in the Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceana, and the Middle East (Morocco was the only participating African nation):

US 4th graders performed significantly better than the international average

Number of participating nations whose 4th graders...

  • outperformed US 4th graders: 3 (England, the Netherlands, and Sweden)
  • scored virtually the same as US 4th graders: 8
  • were outperformed by US 4th graders: 23

The PIRLS revealed little or no change in US scores over the past decade

Sources

Fact page created by Adam Gleicher. Summer 2005.

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

Posted In