Literacy is the engine of economic growth. can we get it?

All around our economy there are shortages of skills, workers and opportunities. Employers say they can’t find the workers they need. Still, tens of millions of workers are stuck in low-paying, low-growth jobs, with limited economic potential and few opportunities for Americans to pursue their dreams.

Some say the only answer is more robots, self-service kiosks and other technologies to replace workers employers say they can’t find.

There’s a better option — and one we should all support: Helping nearly 130 million Americans apply for jobs and develop the literacy skills they need to get those jobs is to

These are the often overlooked and underserved American adults who suffer from low literacy rates. They can read basic words and sentences, but complex stuff (like this opinion piece) is too difficult.

Even basic forms and job applications are a challenge for them. COVID-related health advisories and hospital forms confuse them about what to do and how to stay safe. They struggle to read election ballots, check teacher notices from their children’s schools, and write basic emails.

These Americans are not hopeless. They are often hardworking, multitasking, but not well paid jobs. The average annual income for an adult with so-called Level 0 or Level 1 proficiency is just over $34,000, equivalent to minimum wage. As they move up to Level 2 proficiency (basic literacy is still low), their average income rises to $48,000. At level 3 proficiency (the minimum required in our society), their average income rises to $63,000.

And it’s not just what they can earn that matters. When people can read better, they have more choices in life. Anyone who stocks warehouse shelves today is likely checking and entering inventory. This is a greater responsibility. Hospital staff who lift patients out of bed today can be part of the clinical team, working with doctors and nurses. Mothers who are unable to help their children with their homework today may be considering college applications or scholarship requirements. All work has dignity, but there is something special about reaching our potential and taking on new responsibilities.

In addition, improved literacy boosts the economy and international competitiveness. According to Gallup research commissioned by the Barbara Bush Foundation, if all adults achieved Level 3 literacy, it would add an additional $2.2 trillion in annual economic activity. This is her 10% increase, equivalent to Italy’s economy as a whole.

Literacy is not just words and sentences. It’s an opportunity. It’s about bridging the economic and social gap. And about communities that are often left behind. States and territories hardest hit by low literacy rates are southern states, metropolitan areas, and especially communities with substantial or majority African American and Hispanic American populations.

Addressing this national challenge is not the work of one foundation and a few dedicated individuals. A broader coalition of aspiring employers, businesses, philanthropists and others is needed to strengthen and promote effective literacy programs.

We begin by recognizing that literacy is not a given for many Americans. If you grew up in a household where reading was rare and books even rarer, the path to literacy is difficult. . Fortunately, today’s digital platforms have the power to break down the barriers of the past and enable families to learn anytime, anywhere.

Mobile apps can deliver learning in short, convenient lessons. Even the subway or bus can become a classroom if you spend 10 minutes of your commute to study on your mobile phone. Artificial intelligence tools that turn learning into a game make reading his lessons more personalized, fun and engaging, encouraging parents and children to learn together. The possibilities are endless if we all commit to investing in adult literacy.

Commitment is key, and it often starts with recognizing the nature of the challenge. This is a bigger problem than the challenge of finding workers for a few companies. This is a national emergency. About 54% of Americans simply cannot read or write at a basic level, so they earn less and do less than they can and should.

The opportunities are just as wonderful. Unlocking the full potential of 130 million citizens and empowering Americans to pursue their dreams will be an economic bonanza like we have never experienced before. We will move from a skills shortage to a talent surplus, dramatically increasing the revenue and productivity of our nation’s most untapped resource: the American people.

British A. Robinson is President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Mike Rogers is the founder of Leadership to Ensure the American Dream (LEAD) and a former U.S. representative from Michigan. Mike is also co-chair of his 2023 National Celebration of Reading at the Barbara Bush Foundation, along with his wife Christy Rogers.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *