Literacy Week" Receives Bipartisan Support
By Sam Johnson
“Nothing is so
important to finding a job and achieving the American Dream as the ability to
read, yet millions of Americans still lack this essential skill..."
Alexander (R-TN), Sept. 7, 2011.
While our nation's government has
been engaged in a much-too-long session of the childish game I call
"Grudge and Gridlock," it was refreshing to learn this week, that at
least one group of senators can cross the aisle and agree on something -- that the lack of literacy skills in America
is a significant problem!
On Wednesday, a mix of eleven
senators from both major parties joined forces to sponsor a resolution that
calls for the week of September 12, 2011 to be designated "National Adult
Education and Family Literacy Week," and that full attention should be
given to this problem.
The purpose of their resolution is
to accomplish three things: (1). Raise public awareness about the importance of
adult education, workforce skills, and family literacy; (2) encourage people
across the United States to support programs to assist those in need of adult
education, workforce skills upgrading, and family literacy programs; and (3)
call upon public, private, and non-profit stakeholders to support increased
access to these programs to ensure a literate society.
But for many Americans who
read every day -- newspapers, magazines, websites for information and
entertainment; letters and email to stay connected with family and friends; grocery
ads, store flyers and catalogs to do comparison shopping; instructions for
filling out official forms at work; recipes and cooking directions to prepare
food for dinner; instructions for their personal gadgets; and perhaps even a
good book to relax with at the end of the day -- literacy is not a problem, and
their attitude is to just shrug the issue off and say, "So what. Who
cares? Why can't they agree on something that's really important?
But the fact is, LITERACY is VERY IMPORTANT, and we
should all care about it.
The truth is, the lack of literacy
skills in America is one of those "social problems" that affects all
It is arguably the number one
problem facing America today, even more important than such problems as the
economy, jobs, the deficit, health care, poverty, welfare, dealing with the
hungry and homeless, drugs and crime.
It IS the
number one problem, because the lack of literacy skills among many Americans
touches all these other problems, and makes the rest of us victims, one way or
We all become victims and "pay the
price" when those who don't have sufficient literacy skills are unable to
read or fill out their forms to pay taxes; when they are unable to read the
health brochures, medical prescriptions, or nutritional information necessary
to maintain good health for their children or themselves.
We pay the price when any of our
fellow Americans lack sufficient literacy skills to get work because they can't
fill out a job application form, or are unable to follow work-related
instructions for operating equipment or doing other job-related functions, and
instead end up on the welfare rolls.
the price when any of our fellow Americans lack sufficient literacy skills to understand
governmental processes and share civic responsibilities.
Here are the sobering facts about
illiteracy in America:
-- It is estimated that 90 million adults
in America lack the literacy, numeracy, or English language skills to succeed
at home and in the workplace.
-- The nation’s unemployment rate is highest among individuals without a
high school diploma or an equivalent credential.
-- The economic cost to the nation due to
school dropouts amounted to $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes to state
and federal governments.
-- Overall, adult illiteracy costs society over $225 billion a year in
lost industrial productivity, unrealized tax revenues, welfare, crime, poverty,
and related social ills.
Clearly then, you can see the
problem of illiteracy really should concern all of us, because we all pay the
price for it.
The solution, as with
many problems, begins with education -- educating those who are illiterate, teaching
them the basic literacy skills they will need to lead productive and fulfilling
lives; and educating those who are already sufficiently literate, so they are aware
of the severity of the problem of illiteracy and can learn how to help fix it.
all help solve "the literacy problem" by encouraging our young people
to stay in school, and by convincing drop-outs to return or enroll in GED
programs, continuing education, or adult literacy programs.
We can encourage our friends or
adults we know who have difficulty reading to seek assistance from one of your
local adult literacy groups.
And we can certainly support local
and state adult literacy programs through our voluntary donations of time or
Clearly, if we
are to improve as a nation and live in a healthy and productive society with a
high quality of life for all, we must set a goal to eliminate or drastically reduce
the problem of illiteracy.
It's a problem we can all help solve.
“As our nation’s unemployment
rate remains at unacceptable levels, it is critical that Congress makes
important investments in adult education and family literacy. Adult education
programs enable adults to complete high school, and succeed as workers,
parents, and citizens. Adult education promotes independence and is a real
investment in America’s workforce.
Senator Tim Johnson
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