More than 30,000,000 adults in the United States cannot read, write or do basic math above a third-grade level, according to non-profit organization ProLiteracy.
In New Hanover County, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy estimates that nine percent of adults are at a “below basic” level of literacy, and 29 percent are at a “basic” level. That’s more than 61,000 adults whose skills are not good enough to do all they need to do for themselves, their families, their jobs or the community.
In today’s modern society, it can be difficult to understand how so many adults struggle to read. Each person is unique, and an individual set of circumstances prevented him or her from learning needed skills.
However, these circumstances can be divided into a few broad categories:
Lack Of Opportunity And Support
- Poverty (inadequate nutrition, clothing, shelter and transportation)
- Leaving school to go to work
- Chronic illness or physical disability
- Frequent moves disrupting education
- Little social or family support for learning
- Not being read to (or talked to) adequately as a child
- Difficulty learning in a conventional classroom
- Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
- Problems with attention or focus
- Overcrowded or chaotic schools and classrooms
- Inadequate, inexperienced or inflexible teachers
- Ineffective instructional methods
English As A Second Language
- It can take five to seven years to become proficient in English, depending on previous level of education
- Frequency of “exceptions to the rules” in English
The impact of low literacy is profound.
Consider the daily challenges for an individual navigating life with limited reading ability:
Is this letter from my child’s school regarding problems or praise?
Is the fuel pump diesel or unleaded?
How do I fill out an online job application?
The statistics are staggering. According to ProLiteracy, the effects of low literacy cost the U.S. more than $225 billion each year in non-productivity and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment. Eighty-five percent of all juvenile offenders and 60 percent of federal/state incarcerated individuals have low literacy skills (U.S. Department of Education).
Forty-six percent of people can’t read their prescription bottle label (American Medical Association). Perhaps most importantly, the National Institutes for Health report that a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant in her child’s future academic success
, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income. Breaking the cycle of low literacy must
include improving the skills of adults.
Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) has been serving adults in this community for more than 30 years. We offer free assessment and instruction in both Adult Literacy and English as a Second Language. We leverage the talents of dedicated volunteers to serve as one-on-one tutors and small-class instructors.
CFLC provides high-quality training for volunteers, appropriate research-based materials and curricula for students and tutors, and support throughout the learning process. We make a positive impact on the lives of about 500 adults each year, and there is a ripple effect through their families, jobs and this community.
While the challenge of low literacy remains acute, CFLC is working hard to make a difference.
Yasmin Tomkinson came to the Cape Fear Literacy Council as a volunteer tutor in 2002. It was a great experience, and she was very pleased to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and enjoys working with adult learners and the volunteers who help them reach their goals. Yasmin studied Education and American History at Vassar College and got an MBA with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Boston University. She worked for education-focused non-profits in rural Utah, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Boston before moving to Wilmington.