Importance of Literacy
Improving our Community, Our Economy, and Individual Lives
Literacy and English language proficiency are tools that help people rise out of poverty and get better-paying jobs to support their families. Literacy allows parents to read to their children. Improved literacy skills benefit not only the struggling reader, but everyone in our community regardless of age, race, gender, or background.
(The following text is from the ProLiteracy website, October 2009.)
Adults need strong literacy skills…
…to raise children who have strong literacy skills.
Learning to read begins long before a child enters school. It begins when parents read to their children, buy their children books, and encourage their children to read. The research is clear: parents who are poor readers don’t read as often to their children as do parents who are strong readers. These children [of low-literate parents] enter school less prepared to learn to read than other children.
A mother’s reading level is the single greatest determinant in her child’s academic success (proliteracy.org).
…to be good employees.
The employees most in demand in the U.S. have at least a two-year college degree. Workers must be able to read safety regulations and warnings so they and their co-workers can stay safe on the job. And working in a team means that employees must be able to communicate clearly with one another.
…to keep themselves and their families healthy.
Understanding a doctor’s orders, calculating how much medicine to take, reading disease-prevention pamphlets—all are ways adults can keep themselves and their families healthy. But millions of adults lack these essential “health literacy” skills, which adds an estimated $230 billion a year to the cost of health care in the U.S.
…to avoid crime.
There is a clear correlation between adult illiteracy and crime. More than 75 percent in state facilities, and 59 percent in federal corrections institutions did not graduate from high school or can be classified as low-literate.
…to be active in their communities.
Political campaigns in the U.S. often stress the need for “informed voters.” But how can an individual be well informed if he or she cannot access written campaign literature or read newspaper coverage of the issues and candidates? The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, showed that low literate adults are less likely to vote than strong readers, but become more active in their communities as their reading and writing skills improve.
…to advocate for themselves and avoid human rights abuse.
People must be aware of their rights in order to assert them. Literacy gives people access to that information. Literacy plays a significant role in reducing gender, race, nationality, and religious inequality that favors one group over another in access to education, property, employment, health care, legal, and civic participation.