Adult Illiteracy

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"Learning to read is like learning to drive a car. You take lessons and learn the mechanics and the rules of the road. After a few weeks you have

learned how to drive, how to stop, how to shift gears, how to park, and how to signal. You have also learned to stop at a red light and understand

road signs. When you are ready, you take a road test, and if you pass, you can drive. Phonics-first works the same way. The child learns the

mechanics of reading, and when he's through, he can read. Look and say works differently. The child is taught to read before he has learned the

mechanics — the sounds of the letters. It is like learning to drive by starting your car and driving ahead. . .And the mechanics of driving? You

would pick those up as you go along." —Rudolf Flesch, "Why Johnny Still Can't Read," 1981

Illiteracy in America is still growing at an alarming rate and that fact has not changed much since Rudolf Flesch wrote his best-selling expose of reading instruction

in 1955. Illiteracy continues to be a critical problem, demanding enormous resources from local, state, and federal taxes, while arguments about how to teach

children to read continue to rage within the education research community, on Capitol Hill, in business, and in the classroom.

The International Reading Association estimates that more than one thousand research papers are prepared each year on the subject of literacy, and that is very

likely a low figure. For the past 50 years, America's classrooms have been used by psychologists, sociologists, educationists, and politicians as a giant laboratory

for unproven, untried theories of learning, resulting in a near collapse of public education. It is time we begin to move away from "what's new" and move toward

"what works."

The grim statistics

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 42 million adult Americans can't read; 50 million can recognize so few printed words they are limited to a 4th or

5th grade reading level; one out of every four teenagers drops out of high school, and of those who graduate, one out of every four has the equivalent or less of an

eighth grade education.

According to current estimates, the number of functionally illiterate adults is increasing by approximately two and one quarter million persons each year. This

number includes nearly 1 million young people who drop out of school before graduation, 400,000 legal immigrants, 100,000 refugees, and 800,000 illegal

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