How to Help Combat Child Illiteracy in Your Community

How to Help Combat Child Illiteracy in Your Community

Throughout the history of the written word, literacy has represented opportunity. People who have strong literacy skills have better employment opportunities and can move through the world more easily than those who struggle with literacy. And yet, many children grow up with poor literacy skills in communities all over the United States. 

Literacy is essential for living in modern society. We all have a responsibility to help children in our communities develop these crucial skills. Here’s how (and why!) you should help reduce illiteracy in your community. 

The Child Illiteracy Problem

These days, most people aren’t aware that child illiteracy is still a problem. And while we don’t have to worry about three-year-olds’ inability to read, the fact is that children who do not develop strong literacy skills during childhood are likely to grow up into adults who struggle with basic literacy. 

In the United States, around 36 million American adults have literacy skills that are only at or below a third-grade level. That’s a major issue, especially when we consider that advanced literacy is required for everything from applying to jobs to understanding one’s rights under the law. Furthermore, the children of adults who are illiterate or have low literacy skills are 72% more likely to struggle with reading in school. 

Breaking the cycle starts at a young age. Tackling the problem of illiteracy in both children and adults requires early intervention. Many adults attend continuing education programs to improve their literacy skills later in life, but prevention is always the best option and these programs often struggle to meet the demand.

Understand and Showcase Child Illiteracy Statistics 

One of the problems with child illiteracy is that most people don’t understand that it’s still a major problem in the United State. They assume that since children are required to go to school or get alternative instruction in basic skills like reading, writing, and math, that illiteracy simply doesn’t exist in this country anymore. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true, and we have to spread the word. 

To help fight illiteracy, you need to become an educator. Learn and understand some of the key stats so you can highlight the problem with others in your community. Help raise awareness that around 45 million people in the United States can’t read above a fifth-grade level, making them illiterate, for all intents and purposes. 

Statistics show that many people who struggle with reading are those who are delinquent and incarcerated, in poverty or on public assistance. Illiteracy is an obstacle to achieving upward mobility and holds people back from reaching their true potential. 

Early experiences with books and language help kids become better readers, making those first few years crucial. Highlighting these facts could help to get more people involved in the effort to improve literacy. 

Advocate for Supportive Policies and Politicians 

Individuals can do a lot to help combat child illiteracy, but policy-level changes are crucial for driving lasting change. You can help by advocating for candidates and policies that address the ongoing problem of illiteracy in your community. 

Get involved in local politics and speak to your community leaders about what can be done to set kids up for a better future. Fighting illiteracy with public policy involves giving at-risk kids the tools they need to succeed and may include programs addressing youth homelessness, food insecurity, family instability, and more. 

Be vocal about the changes you’d like to see and talk with your friends and neighbors about advocating for change as well. These kinds of movements don’t have to start at a national level—you can make meaningful changes by engaging with the community around you. 

Volunteer to Read to Kids within Your Community 

One of the most rewarding ways to help combat child illiteracy is to work with kids directly. Developing early literacy starts with reading aloud, and it’s one of the best ways to get kids excited about language and build their vocabulary. There are nonprofits dedicated to reading aloud to children all over the country, and it’s a great way to get involve and do your part in your own community. 

Illiteracy in the United States is a problem we can (and must) tackle head-on. Reading aloud might seem overly simple, but it’s the first step for many kids in a lifelong journey toward communication and understanding. Bonus: it’s lots of fun and very rewarding!