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Adult Illiteracy: What's Up With Reading?

A flyer with adult literacy facts.

The number of adults who cannot read in the United States is a staggering statistic, to say the least! I honestly had no idea how much illiteracy impacted people until I became a teacher and was enlightened about what goes on behind the scenes in education. Now, of course, I cannot speak for every school system and I am in no way stating that every school, parent, teacher, and even student is at fault with this crisis, but I am going to try my best to bring awareness to this situation.

Illiteracy is considered a national health crisis. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Council for Adult Learning, and the American Journal of Public Health, about 36 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math (as of this post)! This ripple effect not only impacts the person, but it trickles down through generations! I've seen this happen time after time when I taught in the public school setting. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. I would have students in the third grade who could not identify letters, read basic CVC words, or even know how to spell their names. How could this happen? After attending meetings with parents, I quickly realized that reading and taking ownership of one's education can indeed be a learned behavior.

Let me take a moment and define literacy. The International Literacy Association views literacy as, "the ability to identify, understand, create, compute, and communicate, using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context." So to make it simple, illiteracy is the opposite of that definition. I am not a sole believer in statistics alone because there are so many different variables and moving parts to a story or outcome. However, I do like to know facts and compare them to my own experiences and the things I see in my community. Some of the impacts of illiteracy are: social, economic, multi-generational, and of course educational. I will revamp a few of these topics in later posts.

So, what's up with reading? There are so many different reasons why illiteracy is still an issue in the United States. I may have my own biases as a teacher and advocate, but that doesn't negate that there is truly an issue going on. One of the main reasons illiteracy is rampant is due to the lack of understanding of the science behind reading. Researchers have been stating for years that there is a correct sequence between research-based teaching procedures and effective learning outcomes. So basically, you have a higher chance of success in learning how to read and comprehend when you are given the right tools and in an unambiguous sequence. I will discuss a few of these reasons as well as the outcomes in later posts. In the meantime, feel free to do your research and gather information about this issue. If we want to see a change, we have to figure out what the problem is and then make a difference.

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