Adult Literacy Findings Highlight Need For Targeted Stimulus Funding

ProLiteracy today reiterated the need for substantial investment in adult literacy and adult basic education, as the findings of a federal study showed that nearly one in seven adults in the U.S. lack basic prose literacy skills.

The study, released by the U.S. Education Department's National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), revealed that many states have seen an increase in low-skilled adults since the last assessment in 1992. It estimates that an additional 3.6 million adults are now considered to have low literacy skills, bringing the total to almost 32 million adults in the U.S.

"The crisis of adult literacy is getting worse, and investment in education and support programs is critical," said David C. Harvey, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. "More than 1 million people lost their jobs in 2008 and the new unemployment figures are the highest in 16 years. A large number of the unemployed are low-skilled individuals who struggle with everyday reading, writing and math tasks. The administration wants to create new jobs with the stimulus packages, but to take advantage of those new positions, these adults need basic literacy skills."

It is estimated that illiteracy costs American businesses more than $60 billion each year in lost productivity and health and safety issues. However, almost 90 percent of adults who need access to literacy programs cannot obtain the services due to a lack of funding at the federal, state and local levels.

Program funding would inherently benefit the overall economy, as it provides additional tax income, more employment, reduced welfare payments and greater citizen involvement.

ProLiteracy recently made a call to action for Congress and the new administration to include at least $100 million of the economic stimulus package for Title II of the Workforce Investment Act, the federal government's largest discretionary program that supports adult basic education and literacy programs throughout the U.S.

ProLiteracy works with adult new readers and learners in partnership with local, national, and international organizations, providing training, professional development, and advocacy. It also develops and distributes materials used to instruct adults in reading, writing, math, and English as a second language through its publishing division, New Readers Press. ProLiteracy has member programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and works with 125 nongovernmental international agencies. For more information, please go to and