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Literacy In America Essay

1311 words - 5 pages


At least 40 million American adults need stronger literacy skills to take advantage of more lifelong learning opportunities (Knowles 12). Low literacy limits life chances, regardless of how it is defined or measured. According to The Random House Dictionary literacy is defined as “the quality or state of being literate, esp. the ability to read and write.” Another breakdown of the word, from the same source is “possession of education.” Basic skills and literacy abilities are widely viewed as necessities for lifelong learning and the development of success among individuals, families, communities, and even nations. Better knowledge about literacy is an essential condition for improving it. Helping children improve their literacy skills can help them develop the capacity for lifelong learning, keep pace with changing educational expectations and rapid technological change, and achieve their life goals. Today in society there are many adults with poor literacy skills who lack the foundation they need to find and keep decent jobs, to support their children’s education and help them mold a literate future. I have taken one small step towards this problem by tutoring at two schools. The more time people put towards helping the youth of America is the more literate our population can become. Every small action can help, even if it is just tutoring at local middle and junior high schools.

To determine the literacy skills of American adults, the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) used test items that resembled everyday life tasks. The NALS classified the results into five levels that are now commonly used to describe adults’ literacy skills. In Level 1 almost all of the adults can read a little but not well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child. Adults in Level 2 usually can perform more complex tasks such as comparing, contrasting, or integrating pieces of information but usually not higher-level reading and problem-solving skills. Adults in levels 3 through 5 usually can perform the same types of more complex tasks with increasing length and subject matter (Knox 37).

Very few adults are completely illiterate; they simply fall into the lower levels of literacy. Between 21 and 23 percent of the adult population or approximately 44 million people, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), scored in Level 1. Another 25-28 percent of the adult population, or between 45 and 50 million people, scored in Level 2. Literacy experts believe that adults with skills at Levels 1 and 2 lack a sufficient foundation of basic skills to function successfully in our society (Knox 32).

This obviously is a huge problem. In our society we forget about the citizens that cannot do the tasks that we take for granted. Imagine seeing a billboard on the side of the road and being unsure of what it says, or what dial to set your dishwasher to, or how much to pay when buying things. These things the...

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