During the last week of May, Front & Center is launching its on-air and in-depth look at low literacy in the Great Lakes region. While difficulties reading or writing may or may not directly affect our listeners, the impact of low skilled residents reverberates far and wide.
There are children who have trouble communicating or gaining respect because of the way they speak or write. There are store employees or customer service agents who can’t properly do their jobs because they don’t have the skills to do so. These are the people stuck in low wage jobs, stuck in the mire of poverty, unable to help grow our economy. These are people who put their own and others’ lives in danger when they aren’t able to properly read medicine bottles.
Here are some facts about literacy in the Great Lakes region:
- 53% of adults have low or limited literacy skills.
- 43% of people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty.
- 70% of people with the lowest literacy skills have no full or part time job.
- 54% of working age adults in extreme poverty have only a high school diploma or less.
- More than 20% of adults read at or below a fifth grade level- far below the level needed to earn a living wage. The National Adult Literacy Survey found that over 40 million Americans age 16 and older have significant literacy needs.
- More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
- 84% of the need for English as a Second Language courses in Illinois is not being met.
- Medication errors due to misread or misunderstood prescription labels cause up to 7,000 deaths each year. Low literacy costs an estimated $73 billion in additional health care costs.
So, why does this continue to be a problem when some countries have realized the economic and social potential of educating its nation’s residents?
We’ll explore all of those questions during a three-week series roll out of Front & Center: Literacy. Prior to that, we’ll be bringing you regular news on literacy in the Great Lakes region.
For example, did you know that Wisconsin is implementing reading tests for its reading teachers? Or that our neighbors up North are implementing VERY early education measures? Or that library administrators in Pennsylvania are finding ways to reach out to immigrant groups?