Fast Facts on Literacy


More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level - far below the level needed to earn a living wage. The National Adult Literacy Survey found that over 40 million Americans age 16 and older have significant literacy needs.

The National Literacy Act defines literacy as "an individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one's goals, and develop one's knowledge and potential."

Literacy and Children

As the education level of adults improves, so do their children's successes in school. Helping low-literate adults improve their basic skills has a direct and measurable impact on both the education and quality of life of their children.

Children of adults who participate in literacy programs improve their grades and test scores, improve their reading skills, and are less likely to drop out.

Literacy and Poverty

Forty-three percent of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty, 17 percent receive food stamps and 70 percent have no job, or a part-time job.

Workers who lack a high school diploma earn a mean monthly income of $452, compared to $1829 for those with a bachelor's degree.

Efforts to Promote Literacy

The federal government provided $361 million for adult education programs in 1996. This funding enables millions of families to participate in basic education programs that help people help themselves.

Federal adult education funds leverage an additional $800 million each year in state funds for literacy, and millions of dollars in private funding.

Reprinted from National Institute for Literacy
800 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006-2712
Phone: 202-632-1500