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Adult Literacy: How Does Texas Rank & What Causes It?

If you ask any Joe Schmoe about adult literacy in Texas, they'll probably tell you we're in the lower half. Its kind of a known thing: education is not a priority in Texas. But where exactly does our great state rank compared to the others?

Cowboy standing in the country

Honestly? Not so great.

Texas is ranked number 46... out of 50. That means that there are 46 states out there with better numbers in terms of adult literacy.

"Texas has the fourth-lowest literacy rate of 81.0%, with 19.0% of adults lacking basic prose literacy skills. Texas has the fourth-lowest number of libraries of 3.2 per 100,000 residents." (Source)

For comparison, New Hampshire ranked in at number 1, with 5.8% of adults lacking basic prose literacy skills, making New Hampshire's literacy rate 94.2%. 

But why is Texas' literacy ranking so low?

Well, we don't have a definite answer. We are, after all, a small, local nonprofit (and believe me, if I had the answer to this problem, I'd be signing it from the rooftops). But we are constantly looking for answers from people with the tools and resources to better tackle such a complicated problem. ProLiteracy, for example, wrote an amazing article outlining their thoughts on the factors which lead to low adult literacy rates and ways the public might address them. (Source)

I'll share their bullet points here, but if you have time, read through the article. It's very enlightening on the state of adult education in the U.S. ProLiteracy believes these factors have led to low adult literacy rates:

  • Learning disabilities for immigrants and native speakers of English

  • Lack of English language skills for immigrants

  • Immigrants' lack of reading and writing skills in their first language

  • Long waiting lists for adult English language classes for immigrants

  • Lack of implementation of reading intervention programs for children in schools

  • Lack of literate adult role models during childhood

  • Family poverty

  • Violence in the community or school

  • Leaving school at a young age for personal reasons

  • Moving between schooling throughout childhood

  • Lack of resources for diagnosing and remediating learning differences

And when you consider those points in regards to Texas, I think their list makes a lot of sense. Which is why the work done at Literacy Lubbock is so important. Free adult education, including basic reading, English as a second language, and GED tutoring--these programs have the power to change lives.

I don't think ProLiteracy's list is exactly right for us in Lubbock, or even all of Texas. After all, each city is different. But I can see some of the issues raised in their lists having a hand in our own city. Immigration and family poverty, for example. But some others, not so much. We don't have long waiting lists for our programs--in fact, we don't have any waiting lists at all (we're one of the few who can say that!).

So while this information is excellent to have, it still doesn't solve the core question: what can we do to improve literacy in Lubbock. But it still gives us a better direction to work toward! And it helps inform our strategic plans and makes for an excellent topic of conversation.

Which is what we'd really appreciate you doing!

Take this information and share it.

Because the number one way to help improve literacy and education in Lubbock is to make it seen. Make it visible. Make it loud.

And positive change will follow.



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