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Literacy in America and Economic Impact

Many people consider literacy issues as personal concerns that affect the illiterate individual and not society as a whole. In reality, literacy issues are a collective concern that affects the quality and prosperity of our entire nation. The struggle to win the battle of literacy in America is one which should be fought by everyone.

The wealth creation opportunities for those who lack reading skills are severely limited. The Washington Literacy Council conducted a study which found that more than three out of four of those who are on welfare are illiterate. This has a disastrous effect on our economy. Without the ability to read classified ads, fill out an application, or gather the skills necessary to acquire employment that pays well enough to be self-sufficient, there almost seems no choice but to turn to welfare. This limitation affects their ability to spend which hurts the economy by limiting demand for products and stunting job creation.

The prison population represents another pool of lost opportunity in the fight for economic stability in America. The Washington Literacy Council found that 68% of those arrested are illiterate. While valuable tax dollars are spent housing and caring for inmates, taxpayers are forced to look for additional sources of income to try to live the American dream. Inmates, limited to non-existent reading skills and lost in a cycle of violence and non-productivity, will rarely be able to escape a life devoid of opportunity to make a legitimate living and contribute to the success of our economy.

Improving the reading skills of children and adults is key to promoting literacy in America. As we struggle to battle the ever-increasing costs of health care in this nation, we may also consider literacy in America as key in our fight. Literacy affects an individual's ability to learn about different insurance policy options, complete an application for insurance coverage, understand diseases and disorders, and read prescription bottles and dosage instructions. This inability to properly care for oneself as well as the resulting lack of preventative care results in an increased occurrence of emergency care needed. Since these individuals may also lack proper insurance coverage, or the ability to pay for insurance coverage, unpaid hospital bills flood the nation. This cost is passed on to other citizens.

Providing help for citizens with impaired reading skills is integral to ensuring economic prosperity in our future. As a concerned citizen, you can help by joining a volunteer program that provides lessons in reading skills. In doing so, you not only serve to improve the success and well-being of the individuals who seek assistance, you help to promote the continued economic success of America.