What is the stats on literacy skills in the United States today?


What is the stats on literacy skills in the United States today?

According to the latest survey by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), in five American adults, four possess English literacy skills necessary for completing tasks that require making low-level inferences, comparing information, paraphrasing, and, and contrasting information. The PIACC uses a scale of 1 to 5 to measure literacy proficiency levels (Darling-Hammond et al., 2019). This translates to a literacy rate of 79 percent. Literacy skills refer to the ability of an individual aged 15 years and above to understand, engage with, evaluate, and use a written text to develop one’s potential, participate in society, develop the knowledge base, as well as achieve goals.

In contrast to the perceived high literacy rates in the country, with some studies reporting up to 99 percent of U.S. citizens are literate, 21 percent of Americans have difficulty completing the identified tasks. Unfortunately, this means approximately 43 million adults in the U.S. are categorized as people possessing low literacy skills. From the scale of 1 to 5, 8.4 million, and 26.5 million adults belong to level 1 and below level 1, respectively. Moreover, the PIAAC reported that 8.2 million U.S. adults could not participate in the survey because of physical and cognitive disabilities and a language barrier.

How did you feel about learning the current literacy levels in the United States?

I felt worried and shocked at the same time after learning about the worsening rate of literacy rates. From my analysis, on average, about 32 million U.S. adults either have difficulty or unable to read and write. For instance, adults who cannot participate in a survey may have low literacy level skills, with those classified under level 1 are functionally illiterate when it comes to English proficiency and other aspects of literacy skills. I firmly believe this is a worrying finding because a functionally illiterate person cannot determine or comprehend the meanings of a given sentence, complete simple forms, or even read a relatively short text with the sole purpose of locating suggested information.

What did the articles suggest as a measure to tackle this problem?

To address the literacy levels crisis in the U.S., recommendations by the articles tend to revolve around the resolution in the Sustainable Development Goals that, all youth, as well as a substantial or significant proportion of adults, should achieve the much-needed numeracy, as well as literacy rates, by 2030. According to a recent study by Darling-Hammond et al. (2019), stakeholders in the U.S. educational system should invest in adult learning. The investigators argue that, in the past, educationists have promoted the idea that educating children of the next children goes a long way in solving future literacy problems. However, this practice has proved to be wrong. Therefore, the researchers suggest the need for supporting adult education by establishing a learning environment, as well as intergenerational learning.

Besides Darling-Hammond et al. (2019), Williams and Beam (2018) argue that the literacy problem can be solved by fostering a culture of reading as opposed to simply handing out books. This recommendation aligns with recent findings by Khadija (2019): embedding literacy into community programs. The researchers corroborate that the first and key step to improving American’s literacy skills is the ability of the current system to foster love or spirit of reading. Organizations and government agencies tasked with the responsibility of promoting education throughout the country should engage volunteers to help children and adults with reading, while at the same time, incorporating literacy into any of the community-based programs. By doing so, people below and just above the one literacy level would find the opportunity to improve their reading and writing abilities as the teaching-learning is simplified.

Are there literary programs in your community?

In addition to proposed solutions, community literacy programs play a fundamental role in instilling reading and writing skills. In my community, for instance, we have a variety of out-of-school-time programs for adults and children. In particular, literacy and academic development programs are designed to serve learners who report below grade level performance in class. Students who benefit from these programs are often referred by their parents, as well as teachers. Accordingly, the main aim of these programs is helping students achieve the various literacy skills necessary for academic success. Instructors for literacy and academic development programs utilize small groups, in addition to one-on-one tutoring. Equally important, educational technologies, such as teacher tutorials, facilitate these programs.

Do you feel technology has helped or hampered our literacy skills? Explain

I feel that the role of technology in digitizing communication has had both positive and negative impact on literacy skills among Americans. Typically, a person develops effective writing and reading skills by talking (Blanchard & Thacker, 2013; Williams & Beam, 2019). However, digital devices and platforms, such as social media and mobile phones, are fast, compelling people to talk less and have difficulty engaging physically. In this way, people lack the opportunity to sharpen their interpersonal skills, especially literacy levels. On the positive side, technology presents learners and teachers with a variety of learning tools and resources. For instance, digital books, solar-powered tablets, and online lesson guides, all mingle to improve literacy skills at low costs.

Do you agree with the author’s recommendations? Why or why not?

While the integration of technology into literacy education is having both having benefits and shortcomings, the suggestions or recommendations by the authors of the identified articles are relevant. Given my firsthand experience with developing literacy skills, I agree with the authors that it is not all about inputs, such as books, but also encouraging learning or reading culture. I know of friends who have books on their shelves for years, yet they cannot express themselves in good English or read a short text. Concerning adult learning, for years, educational programs have targeted young school children, neglecting adult literacy.

How do literacy skills affect your current position (as an employee or as a student)?

Literacy skills play a leading role in affecting my performance and engagement with colleagues, instructors, and other players in the school and other social settings. I have learned that my literacy skills and abilities are positively correlated with m course grades and writing scores. As Habok, Magyar, and Hui (2019) put it, and a student emphasizes active use of effective reading, writing, and comprehension strategies tend to gain a deeper understanding of texts, while at the same time, remember more information. The assertion has replicated a previous finding by Blanchard and Thacker (2013). They argued that higher-level language proficiency could be achieved by applying appropriate reading and writing training and methods.

How do literacy skills affect management’s responsibilities toward training?

Literacy skills affect not only students but also management, especially regarding their responsibilities toward change-driven training (Blanchard & Thacker, 2013). Glaveski (2019) argues that the majority of present-day’s training by firms are flawed and unproductive because individual trainers and trainees possess poor literacy skills. The author reports that up 75 percent and 70 percent of managers and employees, respectively, are dissatisfied with organization sponsored learning and development programs. The results from training do not reflect the investment because employees have difficulty mastering the skills due to poor communication skills by their trainers.


Blanchard, P. N., & Thacker, J7.W. (2013). Effective training: Systems, strategies, and practices, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ; Prentice-Hall.

Darling-Hammond, L., et al. (2019). Implications for educational practice of the science of learning and development. Applied Developmental Science, 24(2), 97-140.

Glaveski, S. (2019). Where companies go wrong with learning and development. Harvard Business Review.

Habok, A., Magyar, A., & Hui, S. (2019). The effects of EFL reading comprehension and certain learning-related factors on EFL learners’ reading strategy use. Cogent Education, 6(1),

Khajida, A. (2019). Four ways technology has negatively changed education—Journal of Educational Psychology,s 9.

Williams, C. & Beam, S. (2018). Technology and writing: Review of research. Computers & Education. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2018.09.024

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