Why Literacy?

At Literacy for Life, we know that illiteracy or low literacy can limit a person’s opportunities in life. Even seemingly simple tasks like helping a child with homework or reading a medicine bottle can remain out of reach if you can’t read or speak English.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, because Literacy for Life can help.

Literacy for Life opens up a variety of new opportunities for people, including:

  • Handling daily tasks with increased independence
  • Completing high school
  • Getting a job
  • Receiving a promotion at work
  • Passing the U.S. citizenship exam
  • Passing the driver’s license test
  • Handling personal finances
  • Reading to children and helping with homework
  • Talking to doctors with new-found confidence

Better literacy also means a chance to participate fully in community activities for the first time.

Literacy In The Community

Low literacy or lack of English language skills is at the root of the most pressing problems facing many members of our community, including poverty, crime, and poor health outcomes.  Thousands of adults in our community are prevented from pursuing their dreams due to poor literacy:

  • The National Center for Educational Statistics estimates there are nearly 3,500 adults in Williamsburg and James City County, and more than 106,000 in Hampton Roads, with below basic literacy, meaning they struggle to read simple instructions or complete common forms.
  • According to the 2010 American Community Survey, over 13,000 people in James City and York Counties were born outside of the United States, and more than 3,500 of them are not yet U.S. citizens.

The Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education’s 2010 Fact Sheet cites links between low literacy and poverty, unemployment, and crime:

  • 43% of adults with very low literacy live in poverty.
  • 70% of adult welfare recipients have lower level literacy skills.
  • If the male graduation rate were increased by only 5%, the nation would save $4.9 billion annually in crime related costs.
  • A high school dropout contributes about $60,000 less in taxes over a lifetime.
  • The country could save more than $17 billion in Medicaid and health care costs for the uninsured by graduating all students.
  • Children are 5 times more likely to drop out of high school if their parents are unemployed and lack a high school diploma.
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