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Why Literacy?

A Matter of Opportunity


At Literacy for Life, we know that illiteracy or low literacy can limit a person’s opportunities in life. Even seemingly simple tasks like helping a child with homework or reading a medicine bottle can remain out of reach if you can’t read or speak English.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, because Literacy for Life can help.

Literacy for Life opens up a variety of new opportunities for people, including:

  • Handling daily tasks with increased independence

  • Completing high school

  • Getting a job

  • Receiving a promotion at work

  • Passing the U.S. citizenship exam

  • Passing the driver’s license test

  • Handling personal finances

  • Reading to children and helping with homework

  • Talking to doctors with new-found confidence

Better literacy also means a chance to participate fully in community activities for the first time.

Literacy in the Community

Low literacy or lack of English language skills is at the root of the most pressing problems facing many members of our community, including poverty, crime, and poor health outcomes.  Thousands of adults in our community are prevented from pursuing their dreams due to poor literacy:

  • Nearly 3,500 adults in Williamsburg and James City County, and more than 106,000 in Hampton Roads, have below basic literacy—meaning they struggle to read simple instructions or complete common forms. (National Center for Educational Statistics estimate)

  • More than 13,000 people in James City and York Counties were born outside of the United States, and more than 3,500 of them are not yet U.S. citizens. (2010 American Community Survey)

How big a problem is low adult literacy?



Number of adults in the U.S. who can't read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level



Among immigrants only half are proficient English speakers



Estimated health care costs a year linked to low adult literacy skills



A mother's reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.


the earnings

Workers who have less education than a high school diploma have the lowest median weekly earnings ($592), three times less than the highest level of education


less likely

Incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education programs are 43% less likely to recidivate than inmates who do not.

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