In December 2022, ProPublica published an article about the ongoing literacy crisis in the United States. This blog post is the third in a series of reflections on that article.
More than 43 million adults in the United States can’t read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level, and when you look at the equivalent of a sixth-grade level, that number balloons to a staggering 130 million.
You’d hope that the majority of those folks could be in classes, catching up – but no. Only around 3% of adults who need literacy classes are actually getting them.
There are many reasons for that – the ProPublica article that inspired this series of blog posts goes into some of them – but a crucial issue is the availability of classes. Whether a class has a cost; whether the location is convenient; whether a prospective student can fit the times into their already packed schedule – these are all factors, along with the availability of instructors.
For decades now, when professional instructors aren’t available (or are unaffordable), adult literacy programs have often turned to volunteers. Millions of American adults can read, write, and speak English because of the efforts and dedication of volunteers.
Volunteer support is a core activity for Literacy Texas. Regional symposia, our online resource library, on-demand training and professional development on our YouTube channel – these are investments in the quality of volunteer-led classes around the state.
Because if an adult student is going to organize their work schedule to get to class, and find childcare and the gas money to make it across town and be in their seat every Tuesday and Thursday evening – shouldn’t we offer them the highest quality lesson?
This blog post is a reflection on the ProPublica article, “A Fifth of American Adults Struggle to Read. Why Are We Failing to Teach Them?” Find previous installments here and here.