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Literacy Matters

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.

1 out of every 6 adults in the U.S. lack basic reading skills.

That means 36 million people can't read a job application, understand basic written instructions, or read the Internet.[1]

Of adults with the lowest literacy levels, 43% live in poverty. Individuals at the lowest literacy levels have a higher rate of unemployment and earn lower wages than the national average. [2]

When parents have low literacy skills, their children have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.[3]

If parents struggle with literacy, their children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out.[4] 

A mother’s reading skill is the strongest determinant of her child’s future academic success.[5]

Community Impact

Adult literacy helps ensure equality, economic freedom, and access to information. It lifts families and opens doors.

  1. Financial Stability
  2. Community Health
  3. Education
  4. Family Literacy

Financial Stability

Increased literacy skills can provide economic freedom.

  • People who participate in adult-education and literacy programs have higher future earnings.[6]
  • Education levels have more impact on lifetime earnings than any other demographic factor, including race, gender, or ethnic origin.[7] Yet funding for adult education is increasingly scarce. 
  • Continual decline in federal and state funding in the past decade has resulted in serving only a fraction of the adults in need. The result is a lack of affordable services and long student waiting lists.[8]
  • Nearly half of the 2 million immigrants that come to the U.S. each year lack high school education and proficient English language skills.  This limits their access to jobs, college, and citizenship and increases their chance of living in poverty.[9]

Community Health

Increased health literacy can improve personal, family, and community health. Additionally, it can lower health care costs.

  • Between $106 and $238 billion in yearly health care costs are linked to low adult literacy.[10]
  • Nearly half of American adults struggle to understand and use health information. This increases the likelihood that they will incur higher health costs.[11]
  • Racial and ethnic minorities, non-native speakers of English, those with low socioeconomic status, and medically underserved people are disproportionately susceptible to limited health literacy.[12]  These individuals struggle to:
    • obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. 
    • ask a doctor the right questions, read a food label, understand risks when making treatment decisions, and interpret health information and misinformation on social media and in the news. 
    • recognize the severity of a given situation, acquire a basic grasp of how to protect themselves and others, and understand the scope of their choices.
  • Another often overlooked impact of low adult literacy is the effect on mental health.  Those who cannot read, write, and communicate often face isolation, suffer from a loss of dignity, face embarrassment, and lack confidence.

Education

Increased literacy skills can lead to higher education and improve economic equality.

  • Every year, one in six young adults drop out of high school. The percentage of adults without a high school diploma who live in poverty is twice that of those who have a high school diploma.[13]
  • Recent data show that nearly 30% of adults with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line do not have a high school credential. The key to financial success is a viable career path and adequate education to seek meaningful, family-supporting wages. The value to our economy in additional wages and the reduction in support program costs is estimated to be more than $200 billion a year.[14]

Family Literacy

Improved adult literacy matters to children and families.

  • Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.
  • Children with low literacy skills are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out.[15]  Poor performance in school limits higher education, which in turn impacts financial security. Education levels have more impact on lifetime earnings than any other demographic factor, including race, gender, or ethnic origin.[16]
  • Parents have the largest influence on a child’s ability to read, and early reading is the key to success. Twenty-six percent of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This is compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently.[17] Adult literacy is key to raising educated, self-sufficient children.
  1. National Literacy Directory, 2020 Go back up: [1]
  2. ProLiteracy, 2020 Go back up: [2] [3] [4] [8] [9] [10] [11] [14] [15]
  3. U.S. Department of Education, 2014 Go back up: [6]
  4. COABE, 2017 Go back up: [7] [16]
  5. Seeds of Literacy, 2020 Go back up: [5] [13]
  6. NCES, 2000 Go back up: [17]
  7. Misinformation Review, April Joy Damian & Joseph J. Gall, Harvard Kennedy School, 2020 https://misinforeview.hks.harvard.edu/article/promoting-health-literacy-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-a-call-to-action-for-healthcare-professionals/ Go back up: [12]

Literacy Matters

Trained tutors develop customized lessons to help students with their everyday needs.

Tutoring is offered at a time and place convenient to the student. Flexibility and useful lessons lead to success.

See our impact Explore our programs

Student Spotlight

"There is no better place than LVSC to learn English."

Meet Yorleny who enjoys giving back to the community by volunteering and shares her secret for learning English.

Read Yorleny's Story