Consider these facts about Americans who speak English

  • At least 50 percent of the unemployed are functionally illiterate (US Department of Labor Statistics).
  • The average kindergarten student has seen more than 5,000 hours of television, having spent more time in front of the TV than it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree (Laubach Literacy Action Council). So the models of conversation they have heard have been heavily scripted in ways that allow neither in-the-moment response nor revision. Linguist Barry Sanders, among many others, has demonstrated a direct causal relationship between early television viewing and impaired literacy.
  • Twenty-seven percent of army enlistees can’t read training manuals written at the seventh-grade level (American Council of Life Insurance).
  • One study of twenty-one- to twenty-five-year-olds showed that 80 percent couldn’t read a bus schedule, 73 percent couldn’t understand a newspaper story, 63 percent couldn’t follow written map directions, and 23 percent couldn’t locate the gross pay-to-date amount on a paycheck stub (Laubach Literacy Action Council).
  • Twenty-four percent of all American adults do not read a single book in the course of a year (Pew Research Council).

From “Caring for Words In A Culture of Lies” by Marilyn McEntyre