Literacy Facts

Ashwaq Fadah, 25, of Dearborn teaches advanced ESL class at ACCESS

Ashwaq Fadah, 25, of Dearborn teaches advanced ESL class at ACCESS

What does low literacy mean?
A person who has low literacy skills might be able to read some words, but not enough to understand simple forms or instructions.  This means he or she may not be able to:

  • fill out a job application
  • read a training manual at work
  • get a driver’s license
  • read a map or road signs
  • understand their child’s school permission slip
  • read the ingredients on food label and could only rely on the picture
  • read a prescription label or follow a doctor’s written directions
  • share a simple story with their child

Adults who can’t read often live in isolation and poverty; their children do not do as well in school as children from literacy-rich homes.

Literacy Statistics

The statistics are sobering:  A recent study by the OECD shows one in six adults across the nation have low literacy skills.  In metro Detroit, the number is one in three.  

For a variety of reasons, including transportation and work skills, an estimated 48.5% of mail Detroiters ages 20-64 didn’t have a job in 2008 according to the census figures.  In Michigan, 87% of children whose parents do not have a high school diploma live in low income families.

The Cost of Low Literacy

  • Adults with low literacy are four times more likely to also have low levels of health.
  • Low literacy is estimated to cost $106 to $236 billion in health care costs annually (according to Pfizer).
  • Basic skills are linked not only to employment outcomes, but also to personal and social well-being.
  • If the male high school graduation rate was raised by just 5%, we would see an additional $280 million each year through a combination of crime-related savings and additional tax revenues.
  • Research shows one of the most important factors impacting a child’s reading level is his/her mother’s level of education.

Without further action, U.S. adults, and Detroit adults in particular, will fall further behind.

Reading Works wants to change this picture, get adults reading proficiently, and connect them with opportunities that are going to advance them personally, lift their families out of poverty, and transform our region.

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