Life-Changing Literacy

Today in America, there are frightening low levels of literacy affecting the population’s ability to participate in and contribute to the world around them.

Literacy can be a great equalizer, leveling the playing field across education. It plays a significant role in testing when it comes to advancing in primary and secondary school. The primary years of establishing the basic skills of reading have been lost in the commotion of the pandemic.

According to the Department of Education’s 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (known as NAEP or “the Nation’s Report Card”), only 34% of eighth graders read and write at a proficient level.

A gradual decline in test scores of the US population has been noticed in past decades. The younger generations are not the only ones experiencing a detrimental loss of literacy.

According to the US Department of Education, nearly 130 million American adults read below a sixth grade level: more than half of the adult US population.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a growing “digital divide” in all ages after spending almost two years in front of screens. Many US citizens are lacking skills to turn the page in a book while excelling in swiping on a phone.
Reading is not only an important factor in test scores, but it has shown many benefits such as lowering blood pressure and heart rate, as well as improving sleep and brain connectivity quality. It has been proven to support humans in everyday life. On an economical level, illiterate people are at a disadvantage when meeting job requirements. Many US jobs involve continuous reading on a daily basis. Literacy is life-changing.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, efforts have been made to support the population of struggling readers. The nonprofit organization known as The Aspen Little Library has gathered retired books throughout the town of Aspen as a sustainable way to reuse books. The little red boxes have been placed at multiple Roaring Fork Transportation Association (RFTA) bus stations, prompting those with a long bus ride to grab a book and stimulate their minds.

This will not completely fix the problem, but it is a step in the right direction. As a country, the people need to come together and prioritize helping the younger generations with reading skills. With the right techniques and dedication, a turning curve will be seen in literacy levels.