What is Literacy?

Literacy is the use of printed and written
information that allows one to function in
society, achieve one’s goals, and to develop
one’s knowledge and potential.
Learn More

There are three basic types of literacy:

Prose Literacy

The knowledge and skills needed to read, comprehend and use information from items such as newspapers, books, magazines, credit card applications, etc.

Document Literacy

The knowledge and skills needed to read, comprehend and use information from items such as maps, schedules, time tables, calendars of events, instruction booklets, lists of courses, etc.

Quantitative Literacy

The knowledge and skills required to read and perform computations using numbers in a way that allows one to perform quantitative tasks, for example reviewing a super market or gas station receipt, bank or credit card statement, or a list of batting averages.

Why is There a Problem?

Reading failure, along with it’s close correlate,
retention in grade and alignment to special
education, are by far the most important
predictors of dropout, delinquency, early
pregnancy, and other serious problems
Learn More

Two in five adults in the 20-town region of Greater New Haven have only basic or below basic prose literacy skills. More than half have only basic or below basic quantitative literacy skills (National Institute of Literacy; 2000 Census; NAAL, 2003).

In New Haven alone, about three in five adults have only basic or below basic prose literacy skills. They have difficulty reading a bus schedule or filling out a job application. (National Institute of Literacy; 2000 Census; NALS, 1992; NAAL, 2003).

Over Half(57 percent) of the population age 16 and over in New Haven does not have the necessary skills to be successful in the workforce (National Adult Literacy Survey, or NALS, 1992). More than one in four adults here (some 18,000 people) do not have a high school diploma and therefore have difficulty in the job market due to a lack of basic skills. The proportion of the adult population without a high school diploma is 60 percent higher in New Haven than in the rest of the state (2000 Census). 50 percent of high school dropouts have below basic literacy skills (NAAL, 2003).

Half (50 percent) of New Haven fourth-graders read proficiently; 32 percent read at the more ambitious state goal. Statewide, about 78 percent of fourth-graders are proficient and 64 percent at the goal (Connecticut Mastery Test, 2012). About 60 percent of New Haven tenth-graders read proficiently, with only 21 percent at the more ambitious goal. Statewide, 81 percent are proficient and 48 percent at the goal (Connecticut Academic Performance Test, 2012).

Students with very limited literacy are more likely to lose interest in school and drop out. Connecticut data indicate 79 percent of the class of 2009 graduated high school within four years. While 87 percent of white students graduated in four years, 66 percent of African American students and 58 percent of Hispanic classmates did so. Only 60 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches graduated within four years, compared with 86 percent of more affluent classmates (Connecticut Department of Education, figures rounded).

18 percent of Connecticut residents speak a language other than English at home; of these, 39 percent speak English less than “very well” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006, American Community Survey, http://factfinder.census.gov).

28 percent of New Haven residents speak a language other than English at home (U.S. Census Bureau, State and County Quick Facts, 2009).

49 percent of adults who did not complete high school have below basic health literacy, compared with 15 percent of adults who ended their education with a high school diploma and 3 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003).

What Are The Effects?

Success in early reading is the most important
predictor of success throughout students’ school
careers and because of this success in life
beyond school, Longitudinal research has shown
that students who are readìng far below grade
level in third grade are unlikely to graduate from
high school
Learn More

Children…

who don’t learn to read by the end of first grade have a chance of just 1 in 8 of learning to read on grade level (Connie Juel, 1988; Sally Shaywitz, 1999).

36 percent of parents who had less than a high school diploma visited a library with their children in 2003. For parents with a bachelor’s degree, 58 percent visited a library with their children (Digest of Education Statistics, 2008).

20 percent of parents who had less than a high school diploma volunteered at their children’s school in 2007. Among parents with a bachelor’s degree, 57 percent volunteered at their children’s school (Digest of Education Statistics, 2008).

Adults…

with below basic prose literacy skills make up 1 in 7 overall in the U.S. and more than half of those without a high school diploma or GED (NAAL, 2003). Millions of other adults have basic but still very limited reading skills.

Economy and workforce

2008 median weekly earnings for full-time workers age 25 and over with less than a high school diploma were $426. For high school graduates the median weekly earnings were $591. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree earned $978 per week (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey).

70 percent of adults with the lowest level of literacy skills are unemployed or work part-time (NALS, 1992; Kirsch Study, 1993). A welfare recipient with Level 1 literacy skills may need up to 1100 hours of education and training to gain necessary skills (National Institute for Literacy).

80 to 90 million U.S. adults, about half of the adult workforce, do not have the basic education and communications skills required to get or advance in jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage (2008 Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, “Reach Higher, America: Overcoming Crisis in the U.S. Workforce”). 53 percent of manufacturers say they have unfilled positions because they cannot find qualified candidates (National Association of Manufacturers).

Immigrants and social integration Demand for English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) programs nationwide has increased with the number of immigrants and their children. A 2006 study by the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education noted 78 percent of ESOL programs had waiting lists because they were unable to create additional capacity to serve the local need. Nationwide, over 90,000 people were unable to enroll because of insufficient classes.

Health…

People with low levels of literacy are 52 percent more likely to be hospitalized than people with higher levels of literacy (Journal of the American Medical Association).

Research suggests that people with low levels of literacy are less able to follow treatments and make more dosage and treatment errors (Pfizer Clear Health Communication Initiative).

Crime…

The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. One in every 100 Americans 16 and older is behind bars (2.6 million in 2006); 43 percent of inmates do not have a high school diploma and 56 percent have very limited literacy skills. When released back into society, this population has an extremely difficult time getting jobs due to their prison records, but for those without sufficient education and literacy skills finding employment is nearly impossible (Executive Summary, Report of the National Commission on Adult Literacy, 2008).

70 percent of adult prisoners are at the bottom two levels of literacy (National Adult Literacy Survey).

More than 1 in 3 juvenile offenders in correctional facilities have reading skills below the average fourth-grade student (Open Society Institute: Criminal Justice Initiative).

Most prisoners do not participate in prison education programs and the rate of participation has dropped. Re-arrest, reconviction, and re-incarceration rates were lower for the prison population who had participated in correctional education than for non-participants (Three State Recidivism Study).

Taxpayers…

High school dropouts are more than three times as likely to receive public assistance as high school graduates (Proliteracy America). Welfare recipients with low literacy skills and less education stay on welfare the longest (Take Action for Literacy).

Annual health care costs for individuals with low literacy are four times as high as for those with greater literacy skills (Pfizer Clear Health Communication Initiative). Additional health care expenditures due to low health literacy skills are $73 billion annually (National Academy on an Aging Society).

19 percent of people in the lowest literacy level receive food stamps versus only 4 percent of people in the two highest literacy levels; 43 percent of people in the lowest literacy level live in poverty (NAAL, 2003).

How Can I Help?

Help us accomplish our mission of 100%
literacy by volunteering your time, making a
financial donation, or contributing books,
supplies, or equipment.
Learn More

Connect to resources on literacy and about the Literacy Coalition. Engage yourself, your neighbors, and your government with literacy issues at the local, state, and federal levels. Attend a Literacy Forum to learn more.