Literacy Facts

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The Face of Illiteracy

In our community and across our nation, illiteracy contributes to unemployment, poverty, crime, overuse of emergency healthcare services, and other social problems. The children of people without literacy skills suffer from increased rates of academic and behavioral problems in school.


  • Being unable to complete a job application.
  • Being handed an inventory at work that you can’t read—and then losing your job because of it.
  • Not being able to read the instructions on your medical prescription or a Social Security form.
  • Looking into your child’s face and having to admit that you can’t read her teacher’s note.
  • Calling 911 and being unable to make yourself understood.

In Frederick County*

  • 7.1% of adults aged 25+ (6,608 people) lack a high school diploma.
  • 3.1% of adults aged 25+ (5,185 people) have not finished 9th grade.
  • 14.7% of the population (34,008 people) speak a language other than English at home.
  • 5.1% of the population (11,804 people) speak English less than “very well.”

     (*American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau, 2015.)

In the U.S.

  • An excess of $230 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy. (American Journal of Public Health.)
  • Seventy-five percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. (U.S. Department of Justice, Rand Report.)
  • Low literacy costs the U.S. at least $225 billion each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment. (National Council for Adult Learning.)

Find out more about illiteracy from our affiliate organization, ProLiteracy.

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