32 million American adults can’t read: why literacy is the key to growth

32 million American adults can’t read: why literacy is the key to growth

Illiteracy is behind all kinds of issues we see today, from gender inequality and unemployment to malnutrition and infant mortality.

One Young World@OneYoungWorld

on 23 January

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Written by Rui Diemart.

It is widely known that literacy — the ability to read and write — is tied to everything we do and our interactions in social situations. Literacy is the foundation to build essential skills to perform better in school and develop an interest in becoming a lifelong learner. It has a direct impact on one’s personal growth, economic welfare, and long-term well-being.

Even though it is common knowledge that literacy has a direct impact in people’s lives, there is a literacy crisis hiding in plain sight.

Approximately 32 million adults in the United States can’t read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 50 percent of U.S. adults can’t read a book written at an eighth-grade level.

Illiteracy issues start long before eighth-grade. It starts before young children can talk. The literacy state is not any better for young children. Two-thirds of America’s children living in poverty have no books at home, and the number of families living in poverty continues to rise. It is not difficult to imagine that children who do not have access to books or read regularly are vulnerable to falling behind in school, which often leads to juvenile criminality. Childhood illiteracy poses a real threat to the economic growth and development of our society.

To address the childhood illiteracy crisis, KPMG started KPMG’s Family for Literacy (KFFL) program in 2008 in the US to help provide new books to children from low-income families. In six years, the program has expanded to all 100+ offices and has provided more than 3.5 million new books to low-income children in communities across the country. Global expansion has begun with programs started in India, Mexico, South Africa, Zambia, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Canada and China.

In 2014, KPMG in South Africa launched KFFL to coincide with Nelson Mandela International Day, to inspire young people to empower change in their lives. KFFL encouraged KPMG people in South Africa to give their time in the fight against illiteracy in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s work to make the world a better place.

Illiteracy is behind all kinds of issues we see today, from gender inequality and unemployment to malnutrition and infant mortality. It affects people all across the world and it has severe negative impacts on our workforce, the well-being of our communities, our economy and our day-to-day lives around the world.

KFFL is one of the many lifelong learning initiatives and opportunities that is supported by KPMG to eradicate illiteracy. Aimed to prepare and inspire young people to succeed, KPMG has forged important partnerships with organizations such as Enactus, WE, One Young World, and Junior Achievement to continue its commitment to lead change in society.

Rui Diemart is a One Young World Coordinating Ambassador for USA. She leads a large literacy program in Houston. Through the program, she has raised funds and distributed over 21,000 books to children in need in the Houston area.