Literacy in the United States of America – Do You Know How Many Are Illiterate?

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An additional 29 percent of American adults can read at only the most basic level. They function in society and the workplace, but not without difficulty. When added together, these two groups account for a staggering 43 percent of American adults who have basic to almost no reading skills.

Adult literacy is an urgent topic of research at the national level. The national focus on literacy resolved in the passage of the National Literacy Act (NLA) in 1991. The US Congress then established the National Institute for Literacy. The NLA and the Institute have become champions of literacy. The Institute's staff works with the US Department of Education, and conducts research and analysis of literacy issues. The Institute's publications serve as a resource for reading programs throughout the country.

In 2003, the US Department of Education's National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) sponsored the National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey. The NCES designed and conducted a national reading assessment, and reported some sobering facts about jurisdiction in the United States. The key findings are:

– 43 percent of the adult population aged 16 and older could read at basic to below basic levels.

– 44 percent of the adult population can read at the intermediate level, enough to handle day-to-day reading.

– Only 13 percent of adults in the population held "proficient" reading skills. This means that only 13 percent of adults can do research and understand complex documents.

Achieving greater adult literacy is a national challenge, and you can help. If you are interested in teaching someone to read, there are several reading programs and literacy centers across the country in need of volunteers.

America's Literacy Directory provides a comprehensive database of reading programs that need qualified instructors. Most literacy centers and programs provide training training designed for teaching the adult learner. You can access this database by entering your location information for the reading programs and literacy centers near you.

For more information about America's Literacy Directory, visit .

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