"Literacy is an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute, and solve problems, at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual, and in society." — Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, 2014
Literacy is having the basic knowledge and skills to be successful in life. Whereas "literacy" once was used primarily to refer to an individual’s ability to read and write, in a knowledge economy it now also refers to basic skills in math, finances, health, and technology.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), adopted by Congress in 2014, defines literacy as "an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute, and solve problems, at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual, and in society."
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as "the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”
In the United States, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 16 read no better than the average elementary school child. Worldwide, nearly 800 million adults are illiterate in their native languages; two-thirds of them are women. Yet the ability to read and write is the basis for all other education; literacy is necessary for an individual to understand information that is out of context, whether written or verbal.
Literacy is essential if we are to eradicate poverty at home and abroad, improve infant mortality rates, address gender inequality, and create sustainable development. Without literacy skills—the abilities to read, to write, to do math, to solve problems, and to access and use technology—today’s adults will struggle to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as parents, community members, and employees.
Adult low literacy can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States:
- More than 60 percent of all state and federal corrections inmates can barely read and write.
- Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $238 billion each year in the U.S. — 7 to 17 percent of all annual personal health care spending.
- Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
Some facts about Illiteracy are hard to believe.
ABE stands for Adult Basic Education. Students in this program upgrade reading, writing, and math skills and prepare for the GED.
ESL denotes English as a Second Language. This program helps international students improve their ability to speak English.
National Literacy Directory is sponsored by the Dollar General Foundation.
Dr. Ruby Payne describes how schools can be successful by involving the larger community in a networked, linked system.
LINCS – Literacy Information and Communications System is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. In addition to the being the site of America’s Literacy Directory (ALD). You will find information about literacy programs for adults, children, and families. You will find information regarding professional development as well. There are also discussion groups you can sign up for that cover specific topics.
There are programs that can be utilized if you have access to a computer . These programs are listed in the Finding Help section under the Resources tab. All Metro Libraries allow access to computers. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for a list of Learning Centers near you.
Also, you might go to the Learners blog and read what others to have to say. Others face the same struggle and the blog is a place to share what you are going through and how others have met the challenges.