Why is literacy important?

Literacy skills are critical for adult life! And they go beyond just knowing how to read and write.

Image of an exclamation pointResearch has shown that adults with high school level literacy skills get better jobs, have higher income and are healthier than those with lower skills.

What is literacy?

  • It starts with the basic skills of reading and writing, but it doesn't stop there. It includes understanding what you read, expressing yourself in writing, and using these skills to enrich your life. 
  • This definition is from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy:

Using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential.

Schools' expectations for literacy:

The English Language Arts (ELA) classes are designed to help students learn to read and understand complex texts, and express their thoughts in writing.

Complex texts:

Reading complex texts is a skill that everyone needs in order to be successful in their personal life, work life and future education. The texts, or pieces of writing, can be books, articles, instructions, newspapers, food labels, websites and more. 

Image of an open book  Image of a Newspaper Image of a food labelImage of an article on an ipad 

The texts that most students read in high school are not quite as complex as what we need to be able to read in daily life. So it’s important that they at least keep up as much as possible with the grade-level reading.

Graph showing level of readability of different life activities

The graph above shows what level of text you'd need to read and understand in order to do these different life activities. Notice that personal use, entry level jobs and the military all require you to read at a higher level than a typical high school textbook.

The Department of Education's goal is for students to read at grade level, even if they need extra support to do that.

If a student is having trouble with reading, instead of letting them read easier texts, the school should be giving them the support they need to read at grade level!  (Read on and we'll tell you what they can do.)



Sources: National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), MetaMetrics, Inc. 2006