Research & Statistics

As we’ve stated before, the literacy problem in America in huge. Focusing in locally to Pennsylvania and then Philadelphia, the low-level literacy rates increase even more. Here are some statistics and key quotes that put the crisis into perspective.

“Literacy is defined as using printed and written information to function in society to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.” (NAAL)

In the United States:

  • “The literacy proficiencies of the population are a key determinant of the quality of the workforce and are found to have close positive association with economic growth and living standards.” (The Literacy Proficiencies of the Work-Age Residents of Philadelphia City, 2007)
  • 93 million American adults (45% of the adult population) have limited reading, writing, and math skills. (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2005)

Only 3% of the 93 million undereducated adult Americans have access to adult education and family literacy services primarily due to limited funding. (The Adult Competitiveness Challenge, 2006)

  • 14.5% of American adults read at a below basic level. (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003)
  • Those with a high school education or below now qualify for fewer than 20% of all new jobs in the U.S. (National Coalition for Literacy, 2008)
  • According to the Department of Justice, “The link between delinquency, violence and crime is welded to reading failure.”
  • A 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) survey found:

56% of inmates read at basic level or below in prose literacy.

50% of inmates read at basic level or below in document literacy.

78% of inmates read at basic level or below in quantitative literacy.

28% of inmates didn’t obtain diploma/GED certificate.

9% of inmates dropped out before high school.

In Pennsylvania & Philadelphia:

  • 13% of Pennsylvanian adults lack basic literacy skills, such as the ability to read newspapers or brochures. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009)
  •  Nearly 67% of adults in Philadelphia are considered low literate, lacking the basic skills needed to qualify for most jobs or to gain entrance in post secondary educational programs. (Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, 2008)
  • 22% of the adults in Philadelphia read at a below-basic level. This means they cannot complete a standard job application, read a map or understand a medical prescription label. (NAALS Literacy Research Findings, 2006)
  • In Philadelphia, completing high school increases one’s lifetime earnings expectations by 90% compared to a drop out. (New Study Shows Earning Power of a Diploma, Philadelphia Public School Notebook: Spring 2008)
  • “Without increasing the levels of literacy in Philadelphia serious doubts emerge about the city’s ability to attract businesses and to increase employment opportunities.” (The Literacy Proficiencies of the Work-Age Residents of Philadelphia City, 2007)


Below are some excerpts from Research-Based Principles for Adult Basic Education Reading Instruction by John Krudienier, Ed.D. that support the methodology and materials used in our model.

“Adult non-readers have basically no phonemic awareness ability and are unable to consistently perform, on their own, almost all phonemic awareness tasks.”

“Adult beginning readers, like other beginning readers, have difficulty applying letter-sound knowledge in order to figure out new or unfamiliar words while reading…”

“Phonemic awareness among adult non-readers is almost non-existent and is only a little better among adult beginning readers. Adult beginning readers also have poor phonics or word analysis knowledge.”