Illiteracy in Alabama

The Literacy Council of Alabama has a goal to increase literacy in multiple areas including health, computer, workforce, and correction. In all these areas there are millions of adults who are unable to understand anything from newspaper articles to prescription bottles. When senior citizens are unable to read their prescription bottles or someone with their first job doesn’t understand basic federal income tax forms they are essentially shut out from society. Reading these statistics had me so sad and disappointed in how we could have failed over 64 million adults in the United States. The black belt region in the southern U.S. suffers disproportionately from illiteracy compared to the country as a whole. Nineteen percent of the U.S. population can’t read at all, but eight percent of those people that can’t read are in Alabama. Alabama, being the center of the black belt, houses a lot of the United States’ illiterate adults.

Illiteracy is not only a problem for the individual, it can have an adverse affect on society as a whole. It has been found that when literacy rates increase, poverty levels and crime rates decrease, which also means when illiteracy is high these rates too are high. On an individual level literacy is necessary for adults to understand and navigate the world around them. Today not only are adults unable to read basic newspaper articles written by an 8th grader, they are also unable to understand their taxes, use Microsoft word, or make a doctor’s appointment. All of these skills are things that most people learn before they head off to college. There are people twice the age of college students who are disadvantaged compared to a cohort half their age. Illiteracy in adulthood starts in childhood. Most adults are at the reading level of a fifth grader because they either stopped going to school then or they were shuffled through grades without their proficiency being confirmed. This is a big problem that needs to be addressed. Not only are people in Alabama disproportionately affected, minorities are even more affected. Minorities are already attempting to fight oppressive conditions and education and literacy shouldn’t be one of those.

Remedying adult illiteracy starts in childhood before the first day of kindergarten. I believe educating parents in the importance of reading with their toddler and encouraging learning from the beginning to allow adult illiteracy to be something of the past.

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