Literacy in America

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Reading and writing are two of the most important functions performed on a daily basis by individuals. One problem in America is that a significant amount of the population can not perform one or both of these tasks. These two tasks are commonly referred to as literacy. What encompasses a literate individual is a controversial topic. The word “literacy” conveys different meanings to different people. Some people may accept a single definition, while others may develop complex, multi-faceted meanings of the word.

The United States National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released a survey, "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America," reporting the dramatic decline of literary reading among American adults. According to the survey, fewer than half of American adults now read literature (narrative fiction, poetry, plays). The findings were announced by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia during a news conference at the New York Public Library. "America can no longer take active and engaged literacy for granted," according to Gioia. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent minded. These are not qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.

This report documents a national crisis, Gioia said. "Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy. To lose this human capacity, and all the diverse benefits it fosters impoverishes both cultural and civic life." While all demographic groups showed declines in literary reading between 1982 and 2002, the survey shows some are dropping more rapidly than others. The overall rate of decline has accelerated from 5 to 14 percent since 1992.

In the book "Literacy in the United States” "A comprehensive study by Kaestle together with his research...
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