Illiteracy is still a problem in the US

Kate Rehwinkel, Columnist

I am a Residence Hall Association (RHA) representative for Stevenson Hall. Each member has to be a part of a committee, and I’m a part of the community service committee. Recently, the committee went to Walmart to get children’s books to donate. We had $50 to spend, and I thought the money would go a long way, but I didn’t realize how expensive children’s books have become these days.

This made me start thinking about children’s literacy and how I knew kids growing up whose parents did not read to them, so they would end up falling behind. According to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy, “approximately 32 million adults in the United States can’t read.” Many adults who cannot read probably had parents that could not read. Also, some teachers continue to pass failing students to the next grade, knowing they will get further behind. One reason for this is larger class sizes and fewer resources for teachers, which makes it difficult for them to provide the individual attention that some students need to succeed in class.

In 2002, president George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The purpose of the NCLB was to support children by paying for educational help in the hopes of improving their skills and grades and helping them become better students. The NCLB was replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which had the same purpose with some changes made. Even though these programs had good intentions, many students have fallen through the cracks since the NCLB act was implemented, and the illiteracy rate is still high.

Reading is a regular part of life. We read every day, whether it is a highway sign on the interstate directing us where to go, a multiple-choice question on a test or instructions for assembling IKEA furniture. The inability to read can also be life threatening for someone who cannot read the directions on a prescription bottle.

I cannot imagine how my life would be if I did not know how to read. My mom read to me every night as a kid, and I loved it. Many parents do not read to their kids because they do not have the time or know-how to read themselves. No one should have to go through the struggle of not being able to read on a daily basis.

If there are at least 32 million people in America today who struggle to read, there must be millions more across the world. Being illiterate as a child also limits a person’s future, especially when finding a job. The education system has failed millions of Americans, and if things don’t change those numbers will skyrocket.

Kate Rehwinkel is a junior management major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at

[email protected].