Literacy Facts

Why focus our efforts on literacy?

Until 3rd grade kids learn to read, then they read to learn.  Find Oklahoma's reading proficiency stats and more info here.

In 2009, 35% of Oklahoma 4th grade public school students scored below proficient and below basic on NAEP reading tests. Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2009 Reading Assessment.

In Oklahoma, 72% of 4th grade public school students scored below proficient reading level in 2009. Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2009 Reading Assessment.

41% of Oklahoma children ages 3 to 5 were not enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten in 2008. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey microdata.

In Oklahoma, 14% of children ages 1 to 5 were read to less than 3 days per week by family members in 2007. Young children whose parents read to them, tell stories, or sing songs tend to develop larger vocabularies.   Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, 2007, The National Survey of Children’s Health.

In 2007, 16% of Oklahoma school-aged children repeated one or more grades since starting kindergarten. The National Survey of Children’s Health also shows that the likelihood of repeating a grade increases as a child gets older, with 13% of 12- to 17-year-olds having ever repeated a grade compared to 9% of 6- to 11-year-olds.  Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, 2007, The National Survey of Children’s Health.

In 2008, Oklahoma ranked 36th in the nation with 8% of Oklahoma teens ages 16 to 19 not in school and not high school graduates.  Source: US Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey, American Factfinder, Table B14005.  

14% of 18- to 24-yearolds in Oklahoma were not attending school, were not working, and had a high school diploma or less in 2008.  Source: US Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey microdata.

On an average day in Oklahoma, 14 children will quit high school without graduating.  Source: National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)

14% of Oklahoma children lived in households where the household head was not a high school graduate in 2008. The median income for someone with less than a high school degree was $23,000 compared to $48,000 for someone who obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.  Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey microdata.

In 2008, Oklahoma ranked 44th, with 47% of children living in low-income families (below $43,668 for a family of two adults and two children).  Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey, American Factfinder, Table B17024.

85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.  Source: National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)

On an average day, 60 children are arrested for a crime; 2 of those are arrested for a violent crime.  Source: National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)

Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.  Source: National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL).  Source: National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL): 

  • Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write. 
  • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read. 
  • 43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5. 
  • 3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels. 
  • 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts. 
  • 16 to 19 year old girls at the poverty level and below, with below average skills, are 6 times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than their reading counterparts. 

National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) defines literacy as "using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential."

60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2009 Reading Assessment.

Over one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.   Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 1995

Approximately 50 percent of the nation's unemployed youth age 16-21 are functional illiterate, with virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs.  Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HRSA, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, 2007, The National Survey of Children’s Health.

44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a childSource: National Adult Literacy Survey (1992) NCED, U.S. Department of Education

Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 - 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.  Source: National Adult Literacy Survey, (1992) NCES, U.S. Department of Education

21 million Americans can't read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can't read their diplomasSource: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2009 Reading Assessment

Forty-four percent of American 4th grade students cannot read fluently, even when they read grade-level stories aloud under supportive testing conditions.  Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Pinnell et al., 1995

15% of all 4th graders read no faster than 74 words per minute, a pace at which it would be difficult to keep track of ideas as they are developing within the sentence and across the page.  Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2009 Reading Assessment