Quick Hit Public News Service Friday April 11th, 2014, 10:49am

One In Two Illinoisans Struggles With Reading

Adult literacy goes beyond being able to curl up with a good book.  Experts say reading struggles also can translate into troubles functioning in an ever-changing world. 

Dorothy Miaso, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, says being literate means knowing how to be successful within a family, community and workplace. 

She says studies show that one in every two adults has difficulties in one of those areas.

"They may not be able to compute as well, use technological equipment," she explains. "Math has always been a problem. They may not be able to follow editorials, and another thing is health literacy."

Meanwhile, an estimated one in four has severe difficulty with reading, which Miaso says could mean needing a lot of help from others, including with directions in the workplace or elsewhere. 

On Saturday, educators, tutors and new readers will gather for a conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago to learn about the latest strategies, techniques and materials to help students and teachers in adult literacy programs.

Miaso says there will also be a political writer at the conference discussing why literacy is important to citizen participation. 

She says just 55 percent of those with low literacy tend to participate in elections, compared with 89 percent of those who are more literate.

"This last primary election had a 20 percent turnout, which means that we do need to put a focus on engaging the electorate and people being involved in civic participation," she says.

Building awareness is key, says Miaso, but she adds that many adults who struggle with reading feel there is shame attached to it.

"Folks are starting to realize more about learning disability and how a person can reach adulthood without being able to read but still many of adults don't feel comfortable coming forward and talking about their problems or seeking assistance," she stresses.

Miaso says there are more than 2,000 volunteer tutors working in the field, serving close to 30,000 people each year. 

But she says there is greater need for tutors, with about 10,000 people on the waiting list at any given time.

This article was written by Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL.


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