What does it mean to be functionally illiterate?
A person who is functionally illiterate might be able to read some words, but not enough to understand simple forms or instructions.
Imagine if you were unable to:
- fill out a job application
- read a training manual at work
- get your driver’s license
- read a map to find where you are going
- understand your child’s school permission slip
- read the ingredients on food label and could only rely on the picture
- read a prescription label or follow a doctor’s written directions
- share a simple story with your child
What would you do?
For an adult is who is functionally illiterate, any one of these situations can be overwhelming.
The statistics are sobering: up to 47% of the City of Detroit adults are functionally illiterate, with Wayne County up to 36%, Macomb and Oakland at 13-15%. Many suburbs – including Pontiac (34%), Inkster (34%), Southfield (24%) – have high rates. Across Michigan, one in three adults reads below a 6th grade level.
The issue of adult illiteracy is not just a Detroit problem. Across our nation, far too many adults struggle with reading. 42 million Americans cannot read, write or perform simple math. According to current estimates, the number of functionally illiterate adults increases by approximately 2.25 million people each year.