Why Literacy

Literacy Facts

Know the facts.   Help raise awareness of the issues.

(Sources:   ProLiteracy website, October 2009; U.S. Department of Education Literacy Study, 2003; U.S. Census 2000)

In the United States

  • 43% of adults in the U.S. read at or below a basic reading level.
  • 30 million people over age 16 don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level or fill out a job application.
  • The U.S. ranks fifth in adult literacy skills compared to other industrialized nations.
  • Adults without high school diplomas earn 42% less than graduates and account for millions in lost federal, state, and local revenues.
  • Low literacy can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the U.S.
    • There is a direct link between literacy skills and public assistance, teen mothers, children living in poverty, and prison populations.
    • More than 60% of all state and federal corrections inmates can barely read and write.
    • Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $238 billion each year in the U.S.   That’s 7-17% of all annual personal health care spending.
    • Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
  • The greatest predictor of a child’s success in school is the reading level of his mother.

In Buncombe County

  • 1 in 10 adults in Buncombe County cannot read at a basic level, according to a U.S. Department of Education literacy study (2003).
  • Approximately 8% of county residents do not speak English at home.
  • 18% of adults in Buncombe County do not have high school diplomas.
  • 15% of children in Buncombe County will not graduate from high school.
  • Literacy is our greatest weapon in the ongoing struggle between success and failure – between economic vitality and prosperity for all our residents.
  • There are no “typical” non-readers.   They could be your fireman, co-worker, or even your neighbor.

What if…

…you can’t read the label on your child’s medicine bottle.

…you can’t count your change in the checkout line.

…you can’t fill out an application for a job.

… or the paperwork for a loan …or food …or housing.

…the boss hands you a new instruction manual.

…you need to get directions or read a map.

…the teacher sends home an important note about your child.