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Literacy Is Everything

This is a guest blog post written by our friend Melody at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit & Franklin County Literacy Council. We asked her to share with us about the importance of adult literacy in our communities.

woman reading a book on a train

Imagine a world where you were unable to read. You wouldn’t be able to read your favorite book. You wouldn’t be able to read signs or important documents. The use of technology would be much more difficult, as you wouldn’t be able to comprehend this blog post or even go through your emails.


I work with the LIU12 Franklin County Literacy Council, which provides educational opportunities for adult learners. While this scenario might be a mere hypothetical to some, it is reality for many others, and I witness this regularly. According to the Pennsylvania Association for Adult Continuing Education, over 43 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level. Which, in turn, limits education and career opportunities for low literate adults in the United States.


two people signing an agreement

While some low literate adults develop techniques to work around their difficulty reading or writing, the New Jersey Association for Lifelong Learning found that low literate adults were more than twice as likely to be unemployed six months during the year than literate adults. Literate adults also had a 70% chance of gaining employment after a 52-week period in contrast to low literate adults who had a 50% chance. Education level also directly correlated with workers’ annual weekly earnings. Those with professional degrees had the highest median weekly earnings of $2,206, while those with less than a high school diploma had the lowest median weekly earnings of $708.


Improved literacy not only allows one to excel in the work force, but also improves the quality of their everyday life. For instance, the ability to read and comprehend information makes it easier to navigate the healthcare system. Examples of effective navigation include the ability to read hospital signs, pamphlets, and read and follow directions. Higher levels of literacy also lead to more effective communication between provider and patient. When health literacy is low, healthcare expenses skyrocket. In fact, approximately $106–$238 billion in healthcare costs each year are linked to low adult literacy skills. These costs are often the result of low literate patients being less likely to use preventive care, which leads to more frequent hospitalization and poor disease outcomes. This same study indicated that about 25% of the low-literacy population are uninsured. Those without health insurance may have to spend more money out of pocket on their medical bills.


glass doors with signage. one sign reads "polling station"

Moreover, those who are literate are more likely to participate in civic and social duties, such as voting. In the 2016 election, 47% of voters were high school graduates while 24% did not finish high school. Those who pursued higher education were even more likely to participate in elections than those who did not. One of the primary reasons why low literate people are less likely to vote is that they face greater barriers of entry. Aside from North Dakota, all U.S. States require voters to register themselves. Those with low literacy skills may struggle to read and fill out their registration forms. Additionally, reading and understanding ballots can prove challenging for some individuals. As a result, adults discouraged by the voting process might elect to avoid it entirely.


mother mother reading to young child

While working to help people overcome these barriers, it is important to remember that literacy is a generational issue. When a caretaker receives the education they need, they can pass what they’ve learned onto their children. It also becomes easier for caretakers to communicate with their children’s teachers and assist with their studies. The National Institutes of Health found that a mother’s reading level is the greatest determining factor of a child’s academic success, surpassing both neighborhood and family income. This factor has only increased in importance since 2020, as the number of children left behind had grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In short, programs that provide adult literary education, like the Franklin County Literacy Council, are the key to helping future generations overcome the weatlh and academic gaps we so often see in low-income communities. By helping one person, the wellbeing of the community is also able to increase.



To bolster literacy in our community, Ghost Writer forges long lasting connections with nonprofit organizations to help them achieve their long-term goals. To learn more about how they help further adult literacy and other causes, go to or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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