In the United States, studies conducted by ProLiteracy Education Network have indicated that 43% of the adult population has a reading comprehension level of grade 8 or lower. Close to half of the individuals with the lowest literacy rates live in poverty. Similarly, a Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) study produced the following alarming statistics:
This same study found that people with low skills are four times more likely to have poor health (two times the national average) and that socioeconomic status in the U.S. is highly related to literacy skills. The U.S. has the highest levels of income inequality and literacy skills inequality.
With conclusions like this as a backdrop, the Foundation recognizes that any step in the direction of improving adult literacy levels is a step in the right direction. We recognize that while it is critical that we provide the appropriate counseling to seniors on the decisions they need to make, it is equally critical that we help them comprehend the context of these decision requirements.
The Foundation’s prime directive calls for assisting older Americans to understand the available options to make appropriate decisions that affect their social, health, and economic lives. A natural part of assisting in the understanding of options is to ensure that these very same Americans are able to comprehend the written material provided to them, and that they have the ability to articulate the questions they may have regarding programs and developments that have a direct effect on their lives. Compounding the literacy problem is the growing number of Americans who need counseling to improve their comprehension of the English language, especially in the inner cities and remote rural areas.
Working through AMAC’s Ambassador program, a network of volunteers might be built who could, working from materials compiled by the Foundation, organize adult literacy centers in regions across the country to provide structured programs on reading fundamentals, vocabulary building, basic math, etc. Literacy Councils and other related support organizations have an abundance of material that can be used to build programs.
The Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy administers an “Adult Education Basic Grant Program” that could potentially provide a source of funds to organize and conduct a program of this type
A program of this type would help promote the AMAC Foundation’s reputation as an organization dedicated to its constituency and, in conjunction with the resources available via the Ambassador program, could effectively make a difference in the lives of Americans.
In 2015, we formed an initial team of adult literacy counselors and, in conjunction with the Lake County (FL) Library System, underwent detailed training and certification to serve the public. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, this project only went forward on a limited basis, although we’ve been able to recognize a measure of success locally. During 2017, we plan to revisit the recruiting of volunteers, along with a reassessment of the need in the Lake, Marion, and Sumter County area. We believe there is a need.