Background on National, Regional, Local Literacy Issues

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It’s shocking, but true. More than 36 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third grade level.1 This national statistic plays itself out at the local level every day.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) estimates that upwards of 1 in 5 adults in Sarasota County lack basic English communication and/or literacy skills which are defined as speaking and listening skills as well as the ability to use printed and written information to function in society, achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential.

Employment & the Economy — the challenges for businesses
  • About 60% of employers give job applicants some type of entry test, and 36% are found deficient in basic reading and math.2
  • 80% of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage of qualified job candidates.3
  • Low literacy costs the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.4
  • Businesses need employees with at least a high school level education and strong English communication skills in order for them to be effective in the workplace and help businesses succeed.
Family Education —
the challenges for local school districts
  • Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out.8
  • Local schools need parents who have higher literacy skills and strong English communication skills so they in turn can positively influence and become involved in their own children’s academic success.
Communities & Society — the challenges for non-profit human service agencies

Like all communities in our nation, here in the Sarasota area human service agencies need to help ensure that their clients have at minimum a high school-level education and strong English communication skills so that they can improve their chances for better employment and get ahead in life. These basic education and communication skills are essential for self-sufficiency, empowerment, and the ability to thrive.

  • 43% of adults with the lowest literacy levels live in poverty.9
  • $232 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy skills.10
  • 75% of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate.11

Research shows that gains in literacy and English communication skills impact the lives of individuals in many positive ways. Human service agencies benefit by having clients:

  • achieve independence without relying on public assistance programs (e.g. TANF, Food Stamps, etc.)
  • obtain a job or a better-paying job
  • lead healthier lives
  • manage their health and access quality health care when they need it
  • succeed in society
  • exercise their rights (e.g., voting) as citizens

1. (Source: ProLiteracy)
2. (Source: American Management Association)
3. (Source: Center for Workforce Preparation).
4. (Source: National Council for Adult Learning).
5. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics).
6. (Source: American Journal of Public Health)
7. (Source: Rand Report: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education)
8. (Source: National Bureau of Economic Research)
9. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics)
10. (Source: American Journal of Public Health)
11. (Source: Rand Report: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education)