Addressing the problem of illiteracy

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, March 26, 2009

One out of five adults in Butler County lack the skills to read this sentence, according to a report by The National Center for Education Statistics.

The NCES recently released the data compiled in its National Assessment of Adult Literary, which gauges the language literacy skills of American adults.

Using statistical models, the NCES made estimates of literary skill achievement for all the states and counties in the nation in 1992 and 2003. They rated them in four categories: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate and Proficient.

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The results do not paint a rosy picture.

Here in Butler County, an estimated 21 percent of the adult population falls into the “below basic prose literary skills” category (“adults” being defined as people age 16 years or older living in households or prisons).

In neighboring Crenshaw County, the total in the “below basic” category is 19 percent; in Lowndes County, it stands at 31 percent. Alabama’s average for the “below basic” category is 15 percent.

That means a hefty percentage of those in our community and state have no more than the most simple and concrete literary skills.

Across the U.S., an estimated 30 million adults (14 percent of the population) would be found in the “below basic” level.

While the number of those falling into the “below basic” category fell from 26 percent to 22 percent nationwide between 1992 and 2003, there were actually fewer adults with “proficient” prose and documentary literacy in 2003 compared to 1992.

What can be done to stop the continued slide in literacy rates? We believe starting in the homes to instill a love of reading and books and expressing oneself through writing can only help. In many cases, parents and grandparents may very well need to seek literacy tutoring themselves and lead by example.

Everyone needs to be able to correctly fill out a job application, read street signs and understand instructional manuals. Literacy is a life-long essential for the health and well being of our entire community, county and country.

Because one of five is just one too many.