What is Literacy?
The definition of literacy is constantly changing to reflect current employment, education, and technology trends. The National Literacy Act of 1991 defines literacy as:
An individual’s ability to read, write, speak English, compute, and solve problems necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential.
Adults with low literacy skills experience many social, economic and personal challenges that compromise their ability to support themselves or their family, or to fully participate in their communities.
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 2000 census determined there are 6,000 people in the Fairbanks North Star Borough who do not speak English at home.
According to the National Institute for Literacy, 11% of Alaska's adult population functions at the lowest literacy level, "Level 1."
A person functioning at a "level 1" literacy can usually
- Identify a country in a short article
- Locate one piece of information in a sports article
- Locate expiration date information on a driver's license
- Total a bank deposit entry
A person functioning at a "level 1" literacy rate can NOT usually
- Locate eligibility from a table of employee benefits
- Locate an intersection on a map
- Locate two pieces of information in a sports article
- Enter background information on a social security card application
- Calculate the total cost of a purchase from an order form
Literacy and Children
As the education level of adults improves, so does their children's success 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 $1,829 for those with a bachelor's degree.