The United States faces a significant challenge of high illiteracy rates that persist despite ongoing efforts to address it. Many Americans, especially African Americans, continue to grapple with this issue. This project aims to analyze the root causes of illiteracy and propose effective solutions to combat this persistent problem.
The literacy rates of African-American adults in the United States are significantly low due to their lack of proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking English. This issue can be traced back to their historical experiences. Prior to the Civil War, Black individuals were banned from learning how to read and write, a situation described by writer Brent Staples as “compulsory ignorance.” This legal restriction on Black literacy lasted for more than a century.
Until the Civil War, teaching “Blacks” how to read was a criminal offense and literate “Blacks” were deemed harmful. The stereotype surrounding African-American adults suggests they are part-time workers, jobless, and lacking education. They are viewed as illiterate individuals who hinder societal progress by engaging in drug abuse and violence. Certain African-Americans opt for a path of poverty, becoming involved in armed robbery, abuse, and incarceration.
According to the 2000 US Census of Population, 15% of African-Americans in poverty are reading below the 8th grade level. A study on illiteracy in African-American communities focused on researching job opportunities, education, and drug usage in urban areas highlighted the significant impact of lifestyles on academic achievements. The urban community faces challenges such as abuse, pregnancy, drugs, and violence; however, there is limited support for those who are illiterate. It is crucial for African-Americans to empower and motivate themselves and their children to receive education at home.
To improve education, African Americans must prioritize tasks like homework, study habits, reading comprehension skills, and written English skills. It is crucial for African Americans to allocate resources towards their own education and that of their children in order to empower them with reading abilities. Despite the historical experiences of African Americans as slaves that set them apart from other citizens, it is important to move forward and utilize existing systems. We should currently expect higher standards from our public education systems and demand more as parents and communities. Illiteracy was common among both middle-class and low-class African American families.
Despite their financial resources and educational achievements, many African Americans frequently end up in low-paying jobs. In the Southern region, a considerable portion of African American individuals aged ten and above encounter literacy difficulties, with rates ranging from 76.2% to 10.7%. The illiteracy rate among African Americans aged 20 to 64 varies between 50.0% and 9.6%. This issue of illiteracy has consistently affected African American culture throughout the period spanning from 1870 to 1979.
The government had concerns about the ability of African Americans to keep up with modern societal functions. However, there has been a significant improvement in the literacy rate for blacks, increasing from 38. percent in 1880 to 71.9 percent in 1910. In comparison, the literacy rate for whites only rose by 1.9 percentage points from its 1880 level of 93.2 percent. This statistical improvement in literacy among African Americans demonstrates a change in the 20th century.
During the Civil War period, job opportunities were limited for African Americans compared to their counterparts. The characteristics of African Americans aged 55-64 were tested on three literacy skills: prose, documents, and quantitative skills. Unfortunately, each African American within this age range scored below the average.
African Americans who have only completed high school or obtained a GED performed poorly on the literacy test measuring quantities. Additionally, African Americans who are illiterate tend to have lower-paying jobs in service, labor, craft, and service occupations. These individuals with low income rates also receive government assistance. The commonality of illiteracy among African Americans is attributed by researchers to cognitive and physical effects of aging. Researchers believe that African Americans are not adequately assessed for their ability to comprehend written materials. Results of assessments of African American proficiency showed that only thirty-eight percent scored well on their examination.
The United States has established a specialized program aimed at tackling illiteracy among African Americans. This initiative is implemented in schools, recreation centers, and after-school programs with the primary objective of offering basic skills courses to improve reading, writing, and English proficiency. It provides crucial speaking and educational classes to assist this demographic in better preparing for their GED and workforce training. The majority of students enrolled in these literacy classes are African Americans, accounting for over 76%. Moreover, there are region-wide outreach programs specifically tailored to target African Americans.
There is a collective effort within African American communities to tackle the issue of low literacy rates. State officials, business leaders, and human resources professionals are promoting assessment classes that can pinpoint the specific needs of African Americans who face challenges with illiteracy. Educational institutions and recreation centers in these areas are offering opportunities for remedial education to those lacking essential reading and developmental skills. The government has conducted two assessments: the National Assessment of Adult Literacy and The National Center for Educational Statistics.
The federal government has provided funds to help states improve basic education programs for individuals aged 16 and older who haven’t completed high school. The range of services and providers supported by federal law has changed over time. Originally established under the Adult Education Act of 1966, the adult education program is currently governed by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), a component of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, as amended (P.L. 105-220).
The adult education program is now a component of the WIA, a new “one-stop” career center system that includes multiple federally funded employment and training programs. The government is currently investigating the societal impact of illiteracy, specifically looking into its arbitrary and misleading aspects. Additionally, efforts are being made to improve literacy programs targeted at enhancing English language skills for African-Americans. Society often tends to stereotype different areas based on their socioeconomic status, frequently assuming that individuals from lower-class backgrounds, including African-Americans, do not possess the ability to read books or newspapers or engage with their surroundings.
High illiteracy rates pose a significant challenge for many African Americans, impacting their literacy skills. Specifically, limited phonics and vocabulary knowledge is observed among some individuals, resembling elementary-level understanding. This issue is compounded by unequal employment opportunities for other ethnicities. Additionally, there seems to be a lack of encouragement and motivation for African Americans in pursuing future success. Consequently, they may face difficulties with self-confidence and develop apathetic attitudes towards addressing their illiteracy problem, thereby hindering overall progress.
African Americans place the least importance on illiteracy and their cultural identity poses a challenge for individuals lacking social skills. They have endured the disadvantage of competing with other cultures due to illiteracy. The African American belief in religion differs and skeptically impacts their willingness to pursue education. Certain researchers view African Americans as societal failures. Furthermore, there are African Americans who choose illiteracy due to the prevalent mismatch of languages across the nation.
African Americans and Hispanics are being compared because they both have lower levels of achievement in fourth grade. Around 250,000 African Americans received treatment for illiteracy. Educational programs for African Americans focused on reading (books, newspapers, and applications) and writing (producing grammatically correct papers). The illiteracy rates among African Americans decreased by five percent each year. Researchers noted significant deficiencies in reading abilities, particularly in understanding directives, completing forms, obtaining education, and giving informed consent (Hunter & Harman).
Their theories on African Americans focused on informational literacy. Hunter and Harman aimed to explore the autonomy of informed consent in literacy. These researchers suggested that the significant growth in literacy is linked to critical implications. Furthermore, they found that literacy could be adjusted for health purposes. The National Adult Literacy program investigates how individuals comprehend newspaper articles, employment forms, and quantitative skills. The NAL recognizes that low levels of literacy among African Americans hinder their ability to acquire competitive skills. Additionally, African Americans who had disabilities and mental issues demonstrated literacy levels two levels below the average.
Individuals with physical and mental disabilities that impact their cognitive abilities, as well as older adults compared to middle-aged adults, have lower literacy rates according to the National Adult Literacy Survey (NAL). Research on illiteracy and health reveals a connection between the learning process and a person’s reading and writing skills. Consequently, individuals who are unable to read encounter difficulties in accessing information and comprehending literate environments, which affects their cognitive and linguistic processes. It is important to mention that certain illiterate African Americans find ways to acquire necessary healthcare information without relying on medication.
Researchers emphasize the importance of utilizing different methods to enhance readability and address health concerns, particularly by addressing illiteracy among African Americans. By employing effective learning techniques, individuals can improve their recognition, concentration, and comprehension skills. The objective of these studies is to decrease illiteracy rates within the African American community through early intervention and educational support. It is crucial for African Americans to recognize that having a learning deficit should not be a source of shame. By fostering a supportive community environment, African Americans can develop proficiency in reading, understanding, writing, and speaking in proper English.