What is literacy?
Literacy is "an individual's ability to read, write and speak in English, compute and solve problems, at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individuals and in society." (Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, U.S. Congress, 1998)
Why is literacy important?
On a National Level
Click here to find national Adult Literacy and Basic Education facts from ProLiteracy
In North Carolina
More than 1,000,000 (approximately 22%) adults experience reading and writing difficulties that seriously affect their daily lives and that of their families.
Another 1,500,000 may do well in everyday reading tasks but could benefit from reading and writing instruction. (Synthetic Estimates of Adult Literacy, Stephen Reder and associates, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratories, Portland State University, 1997)
Approximately 12% of the state's population are adults without a high school credential.
Compared to the national average, low literacy is higher among adults in North Carolina.
In Guilford County
More than 20,000 adults aged 18-25 (approximately 10%) have less than a Grade 9 education.
More than 40,000 adults are without a high school diploma.(1990 Census and Guilford County Schools)
14% of Guilford County residents speak a language other than English.
About 21% of adults in Guilford County 71,000 people are unable to read a map, add up numbers on a bill or receipt, read a story to a child, or fill out a job application.
An additional 25% of adults lack more complex comprehension and problem-solving skills necessary for success in today's society. (U.S. Department of Education. Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at Findings of the National Adult Literacy Survey, April 2002)
The Labor Market
Eighty percent of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. require some post-secondary education.
More than 40 percent of the U.S workforce and more than 50 percent of high school graduates do not have required basic skills for employment.
American businesses spend $16.6 billion each year on remedial training for employees who lack basic skills in reading, writing, and math.
(All Labor Market statistics from Fast Facts About Adult Literacy: Business and Industry from ProLiteracy Worldwide)
In 2002, the average American spent $5,440 for health care. Studies indicate that health care costs for adults with low literacy skills are four times higher than the national average - $21,760.
Individuals with low literacy skills have a higher rate of hospitalization and increased incidents of medication and treatment errors than the general public.
The health care industry estimates that $73 billion per year of unnecessary health care expense attributable to poor literacy.
The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed nation at 900,000 teen births per year. Only one-third of teen mothers obtain a high school diploma.
Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.
Parents enrolled in basic literacy programs participate in school activities and support their children's success in school more, and their children's school achievement improves.
(All Health and Family from Fast Facts About Adult Literacy: Health and Family from ProLiteracy Worldwide)
Immigration and Citizenship
In 2012, the US Census reported that there are about 40 million foreign born individuals living in the U.S. This is the largest number of foreign born since 1920.
In 2011, about 19% of the foreign-born population were living below the poverty level as compared with about 15% of native-born.
As of 2012, 32% of legal immigrants have less than a high school education.
Adults with low literacy skills or for whom English is a second language represent $380 million in consumer spending power annually, yet the U.S. consumer distribution system requires shoppers to use comparative shopping skills, coupons, discounts, and other complex literacy tasks in order to shop cost-effectively. (From Fast Facts about Adult Literacy: Immigration and Citizenship from ProLiteracy Worldwide)