Literacy in the 21st Century

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Across the globe, literacy is an issue that affects not only children and teens, but adults as well. There are almost 120,000 libraries in the United States alone. Who is excluded from enjoying and taking full advantage of these free resources? 

This article will take a look at some statistics of literacy worldwide as well as provide some resources that are trying to combat it.   

The World Literacy Foundation has celebrated International Literacy Day on September 8 since 1965. NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) has a definition of literacy that is conceptually-based. Those literate in the conceptual based definition can use written materials in order to better their lives, set and achieve goals, and be a functioning member of society. Based on NAAL’s 2003 state estimate of literacy level, Georgia had 17 percent of residents who were lacking in their basic level of prose literacy.

Based on a study done by the U.S. Department of Education in 2016, 14 percent of adults in the United States cannot read below a basic level. Compare that with the study done by NAAL and the difference is only three percent in 13 years. Illiteracy in the United States is highest among prison inmates at 70 percent.  On a more global scale, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), two thirds of the global illiterate population are women.

Areas with the highest literacy rates include Europe and South America, with the lowest including areas of Africa and India. While literacy rates are on an upward trend, women still lag slightly behind men. Literacy rates around the world put young women eight percent behind young men in literacy rates, according to UNESCO.

Consequences for illiteracy among women, as well as the benefits of literacy, are outlined by SIL International. Women who are educated have a higher likelihood to go to the doctor as well as return. Literacy has the ability to make a difference for women. Individuals low in literacy tend to have a lower socio-economic status, low self-esteem, and lower opportunity to reach goals.

There are steps being taken to try and raise literacy rates around the world for both men and women. Feed the Minds is an international development charity that delivers education projects to communities around the globe in order to combat illiteracy and enable independence across the world. The World Literacy Foundation also hopes to create change through the spread of education through projects such as mobile learning that allows education tools to be used through mobile devices. In the United States, resources such as First Book battle illiteracy by providing books and teaching materials for children and educators so that resources are available to ensure that more of the population has a chance for better opportunities.

About The Author

Maggie Stansell is a campus correspondent for the Berry College branch of HerCampus. She is a junior at Berry College majoring in Communications with a focus in public relations. Maggie enjoys spending time with her dog, Finn, who is more like her child. She also enjoys watching so much “X-Files” that she now believes there is a good possibility of life elsewhere. Maggie would love nothing more in her life than to work as a concierge in a hotel, as long as it has the color scheme of a Wes Anderson film.