TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: 11 Million American Adults Are Illiterate

11 Million American Adults Are Illiterate

Ben Feller (
Thu, 15 Dec 2005 12:12:36 -0600

By BEN FELLER, AP Education Writer

An estimated in one in 20 U.S. adults is not literate in English,
which means 11 million people lack the skills to perform everyday
tasks, a federal study shows.

From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their
ability to read a newspaper, a book or any other prose arranged in
sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in
comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels.

The adult population did make gains in handling quantitative tasks,
such as calculating numbers found on tax forms or bank statements. But
even in that area of literacy, the typical adult showed only basic
skills, enough to perform simple daily activities.

Perhaps most sobering: Adult literacy dropped or was flat across every
level of education, from people with graduate degrees to those who
dropped out of high school.

Inside the numbers, black adults made gains on each type of task
tested in the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, run by the
Education Department. Hispanics, though, showed sharp declines in
their ability to handle prose and documents. White adults made no
significant changes except when it came to computing numbers, where
they got better.

The results are based on a sample of more than 19,000 adults, age 16
or older, in homes, college housing or prisons. It is representative
of a population of 222 million adults.

The 11 million adults who are not literate in English include people
who may be fluent in another language, such as Spanish, but are unable
to comprehend text in English.

On The Net:

National Assessment of Adult Literacy:

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: During the 1980-90's, when I was
doing volunteer work for the Chicago Public Library in the visually
handicapped reading service (CRIS Radio), the Library had going on in
the same location reading classes for persons who were
illiterate. They sometimes asked me to fill in over there if one of
the tutors had to miss an appointment (student had showed up, but the
volunteer tutor had been unable to keep the appointment). They _never_
wanted a student to show up and not have the regular tutor (for that
person) present. The students, of all ages, even sometimes sixty or
seventy years old, were usually ashamed and embarrassed by the fact
that they were unable to read, but they had made a good first step,
by asking for help, and I would do the best I could as a 'substitute
tutor' for that day's lesson. PAT]

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