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In Level 1 almost all of the adults can read a little but not well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child. Adults in Level 2 usually can perform more complex tasks such as comparing-contrasting, or integrating pieces of information but usually not higher-level reading and problem-solving skills. Adults in levels 3 through 5 usually can perform the same types of more complex tasks with increasing length and subject matter (Ibid).
Very few adults are completely illiterate; they simply fall into the lower levels of literacy. Between 21 and 23% of the adult population or approximately 44 million people, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), scored in Level 1. Another 25-28% of the adult population, or between 45 and 50 million people, scored in Level 2. Literacy experts believe that adults with skills at Levels 1 and 2 lack a sufficient foundation of basic skills to function successfully in our society. This is a relatively serious societal problem -- literally million of adults who are unable to do many of the tasks most of us take for granted. In fact:
7 million Americans are illiterate.
50% of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level.
20% of Americans are functionally illiterate and read below a 5th grade level.
30 million Americans cannot read a simple sentence.
How Illiteracy Affects Job Prospects
3 out of 4 people on welfare cannot read.
75% of today's jobs require at least a ninth-grade reading level.
27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application.
20% of Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage.
50% of the unemployed people who fall between the ages of 16 and 21 cannot read well enough to be considered functionally literate.
Between 46 and 51% of American adults have an income well below the individual threshold poverty level because of their inability to read.
Of the Gross National Product, only 5.3% is spent on public education.
How Illiteracy Affects Society
3 out of 5 people in an American prison cannot read.
Low literacy is strongly related to crime. 70% of prisoners fall into the lowest two levels of reading proficiency.
85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading.
Approximately 50% of Americans read so poorly that they are unable to perform simple tasks such as balancing a checkbook and reading prescription drug labels.
To determine how many prison beds will be needed in future years, some states actually base part of their projection on how well current elementary students are performing on reading tests.
How Illiteracy Costs Taxpayers
Illiteracy costs American taxpayers an estimated $20 billion each year.
Illiteracy has been proven to cause children to drop out of school. Dropouts cost our nation $240 billion in social service expenditures and lost tax revenues (Baker, 2008).
Individual tutoring is the normal solution for illiteracy, while small group tutoring is more common in English literacy programs. Instructional methods vary depending on the learner's personal goals and learning style. There are many ways that literate citizens may help in their communities. Indeed, almost every American community is begging for literacy volunteers, and have programs set up during various times of the day so students and teachers n more easily interact. Government is also working to end illiteracy. The federal government provided over $500 million for adult education and family literacy programs in 2005. This funding enables millions to participate in basic education programs that help people help themselves. Federal adult education funds average an additional $800 million each year in state funds for literacy, and millions of dollars in private funding. That government, regardless of administration, realizes the importance of literacy is an outstanding opportunity for inner city groups to take advantage of these programs. and, while funding is available, it is not always enough to supply the needs of smaller communities, or rural areas (Casey, et.al., 2006).
There also are many factors that help to explain the relatively large number of adults in Level 1. Twenty-five percent of adults in Level 1 were immigrants who many have just been learning to speak English. More than 60% didn't complete high school. More than 30% were over 65. More than twenty-five percent had physical or mental conditions that kept them from fully participating in work, school, housework, or other activities, and almost twenty percent had vision problems that affected their ability to read print (Ibid).
Recommendations for the enhancement of urban and inner-city programs for literacy, life-skills, or simply other options to increase literacy, are often subjective. However, recent scholarship sees five major goals needed to help bridge the literacy gap as society moves into the dominant 21st century cultural paradigm:
1. Keep adult education at the community level; it will have a greater positive effect. Overall, research shows that individualized program characteristics play a larger role in student outcome that demographic or pscyhographic data from the student. Flexibility in programming is far more important than class make-up.
2. Partner with inner-city organizations and community/business leaders to spend time alleviating the mythos surrounding inner cities; field trips, walking to restaurants of coffee shops, all play an integral role in the establishment of key concepts and future studies.
3. Continue to track, monitor, and advocate for urban educational programs.
4. Be wary of over measurement and over sampling; but do figure out a way to provide variable levels in reading, other adult vocations that, by necessity, influence funding.
5. Adults with learning or physical disabilities did not report any net losses in the field; but neither did they report dramatic gains (Ardilea, 2000).
As the education level of adults improves, so does their children's success in school. Helping the low-literate adults improve their basic skills has a direct impact on both the education and quality of the life of their children. Children are probably more encouraged in homes with literate parents to receive a good education and lead a strong life. The children can set reachable goals for themselves that someday can very likely become a reality (Knowles, et.al. 2005)..
The homeless are another disadvantaged group that is in need of educational focus. Yet, others feel strongly that educational programs are an important component in reducing the homeless population. In order to eliminate homelessness, federally funded adult education programs in reading skills, life skills and job training should be available and accessible to those in need. This education teaches the fundamentals needed to read the want ads, prepare resumes and complete job applications. Many former students have commented that living in shelters has caused them to feel like they were as low as they could go. The opportunity to learn about decision making, conflict resolution, interviewing techniques and communication skills has empowered the homeless students by boosting their self-esteem (Stronge & Victor, 2000). Most of the homeless population is hindered by limited employment opportunities and trapped by inadequate wages. Accordingly, the Homeless Education and Resource Organization started by former Miss America, Kimberly Aiken, set up a computer lab enabling the homeless to develop computer skills that would help them move beyond minimum wage jobs (Desjarlais, 1997).
In order for the disadvantaged to become refranchized into American culture; to have a job, leave the public welfare system, increase their productivity and actualization, further trends in educational service for adults are necessary. This is critical in the evolving global economy for regular and uniform education will help transcend cultural borders, economic disadvantage, and individual differences (Cararella, 2001). Imagine if you will… a country where no one is educated. This would lead to chaos, no inventors, no pioneers and no leaders. And this would cause a vicious cycle of ignorance, poverty and civil strife meaning that the world will become an unstable place. . Persons who are denied an education will have their human potential destroyed. Illiteracy would keep the poorest country poor. Researchers prove that uneducated persons will die decades earlier than those who are educated (Knowles in Glover, 1992).
Even those who strongly believe that the focus of education should be on children, not adults, should be supportive of adult education, particularly those who are somehow disadvantages. Adult education benefits the adults who participate, but also the children, relatives, co-workers, and support groups. Children learn from adults; parents, teachers, and mentors of all kinds are usually adults, and the more those adults are able to help and participate in contemporary learning experiences, the more the process of learning will flow downward and outward. The more educated adults become, the more that education and knowledge can be passed on to younger generations. Also, seeing adults choosing to return to a school setting and continue with their education can be a positive example for children. Adults can tell youth to "stay in school" ad nauseum, but children often feel that adults cannot relate to the educational process or environment and…[continue]
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