Friday, March 28, 2014

A Literate World

By Susan

Pamela wrote on Wednesday about reading and writing poetry to broaden your mind, vocabulary, and to improve your writing skills.
This week I planned to piggyback on her post by writing about the benefits of reading short stories. Instead, I stumbled over several statistics regarding literacy rates and decided to save my short story post for another week. Today, here are a few statistics I wanted to share:
  • Only 50% of America's population reads at or above an 8th grade reading level.
  • 21% of Americans read below the 5th grade reading level.    
  • Between 69%-85% of America's prison population* is illiterate. (Take a moment and allow that to sink in.)
  • 80% of US families did not buy a book this year.
  • Over 60% of low-income families have no children's books in the home. 

I assume if you are reading this blog that writing and reading topics are important to you, and that these statistics may not apply to you or your household. In many ways, you may feel helpless to change any of these statistics, and yet I feel that you can. Here are a few resources and programs to consider.

Donate books and money:
         The International Book Project ships gently used books around the world and domestically.  In Kentucky, where they are based, they also partner with Habitat for Humanity to provide a home library for new homes constructed for low-income families.
First Book ships new books around the world to school and programs designated for low income children.
The Prison Book Project in Massachusetts collects and ships gently used books to prisons around the country. (I've looked into private book donations directly to prisons, but they cannot accept books unless they are from approved organizations.) 

Give your time:
  • ·      Through your local United Way, you can volunteer to be a reader to children, a tutor to students, or a mentor to both children and adults working to improve their literacy.
  • ·      Through TESOL, you can be trained and teach English as a second language here in the US. Need is particularly great in California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York.
  • ·      Start a book club. Our own Pamela leads a book club at a local nursing home for older readers. Not only do studies show that reading helps delay Alzheimer's, reading with a group of more experienced readers can help broaden your world-view, as well.
  • ·      Contact your local library for opportunities to volunteer or to help with reading programs.

*prison illiteracy rates vary by source. The first statistic I came across stated that only 15% of inmates are literate. Other stats said 31%, so I included both. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this important post, Susan. Those statistics are pretty startling!


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