Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Literacy Crisis Looming?

My parents didn’t encourage me to read.


Image courtesy of

They only read to get along in life.

I encouraged myself and became an eager reader.

I was infected by the literacy bug—not sure where I caught it

Yet, looking beyond my own horizon, I see that, even though self-publishing is flooding the world with books and e-readers are breaking sales records, there are issues brewing about children’s literacy.

I have a number of posts on this blog about literacy—mostly concerning under-developed countries.

I went searching for information on developed countries but only found obvious concern in the USA.

If any of my readers in other countries can point me toward literacy crises where they live, it would be greatly appreciated

Still, I can’t help but feel that if literacy is lagging in the USA, odds are there’s concern elsewhere.

Here’s a representative sampling of what I found:

Report: Two-thirds of ND children aren’t proficient readers by fourth grade

“Two-thirds of North Dakota’s children aren’t proficient readers by the time they reach fourth grade, and the results are worse for the state’s low-income students, with nearly four out of five not hitting proficient reading marks…”

Fourth grade reading skills improve, still low

“Slightly more fourth graders nationwide are reading proficiently compared to a decade ago, but only a third of them are now reading well, according to a new report. The study also found the reading skills gap between children from lower-income and higher-income families has grown, and proficiency varies considerably across states.”

Study finds Wisconsin’s low-income, minority fourth graders trailing in reading proficiency

“Roughly two-thirds of students in Wisconsin entering fourth grade are not reading at a proficient level and low-income and minority students are faring far worse than their higher-income and white classmates, according to a national study released Tuesday.”

Hawaii’s low-income students struggle in reading

“For decades, research has shown the importance of reading proficiently by the end of third grade. It’s more than a critical milestone; it’s a crucial marker in a child’s educational development, one that shows that they’ve transitioned from learning to read to using reading to learn. Those who don’t read well and fall behind by this grade rarely catch up. They’re more likely to drop out of high school and not be as economically successful in adulthood.”

There are many theories floating around out there for why kids are stumbling in their literary journey—some stopping long before they even approach the magnificent realms of compelling literature

In under-developed countries, the main obstacle is a sheer lack of books.

In developed countries, it could be any or all of the following:

  • Poor teaching/administration (and, many excellent teachers are hobbled by rotten administrations)
  • Unimaginative reading proficiency goals
  • Concentration on rote learning rather than true education
  • Insufficient awareness of individual learning styles
  • Class and race prejudice

Anyone reading this post with front-line experience is more than welcome to share in the comments

I’ll leave you with a list of organizations I’ve found who are working to raise literacy levels:

Management Systems International

X Prize for Global Literacy




If you know of others (especially programs in developed countries) please, do, share in the Comments :-)
EDIT: One of our readers from Germany has left a comment and included a link to a literacy projecct in her country called iCHANCE :-)
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4 responses to “Literacy Crisis Looming?

  1. Martina Sevecke-Pohlen January 31, 2014 at 5:06 am

    According to a recent study 7,5 million adults in Germany cannot read and write well. Most of them went to school in Germany. Whenever such studies are published politicians utter surprise and concern, and the media call for changes in the educational system. Remedial courses are generally outside the educational system. Several organizations offer advice and courses. iChange wants to encourage young people to become “heroes of the alphabet”, to stay in school or start occupational training. This is a link to their website:


  2. Alexander M Zoltai January 31, 2014 at 10:22 am


    Thank you, so much, for information about Germany.

    Hoping a few folks from other countries will do the same.

    Going to edit the post and include your link :-)


  3. cmmarcum February 6, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Forgive me, but my son is taking English in college and I agreed to help him. His writing assignments are teeth-grinding-boredom. Even I, an ex-journalist, am brought to tears with even contemplating them. All I’m saying is this: How can you inspire young adults when you are so determined to make them groan in pain?

    I bet you did not catch your bug from reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Wasn’t it something like ‘Vampirilla’ or ‘The Green Hornet?’


  4. Alexander M Zoltai February 6, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Yes, C. M., your question, “How can you inspire young adults when you are so determined to make them groan in pain?” certainly seems to resonate with these points in the post:

    Poor teaching/administration
    Concentration on rote learning rather than true education
    Insufficient awareness of individual learning styles

    As far as where I caught my reading-bug, I’m not completely sure But, I am sure Superman was supplanted by something like Young Classics early on :-)

    Plus, I do have memories of inhabiting dictionaries and encyclopedias at a young age


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