Can you read this sentence? Probably.  That is in part thanks to an educational system that you spent at least 12 years in.

What about your neighbor who is new to this country?  Many of our neighbors in Minneapolis struggle to read and write in English.  They have arrived for many reasons – but that isn’t important.  Despite stereotypes to the contrary, many are trying to learn English.  English is important for their survival and sense of well-being.  Actually a surprising number of “regular Americans” those who are native born with a multi-generational presence here struggle with literacy.

The Minnesota Literacy Council recently posted some statistics from a 2003 study.

The highly-regarded National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) study of 2003 reports nearly one third of Americans need help in reaching their literacy goals. The study broke literacy performance into four performance levels: below basic, basic, intermediate, and proficient. More than half of the U.S. population tested at basic or below basic proficiency levels in quantitative literacy tasks such as balancing a checkbook or comparing item process per ounce. In written literacy,

  • 14% of the population tested at below basic proficiency, meaning they had minimal to no reading and writing skills.
  • 29% tested at a basic level, meaning that they are minimally prepared to decode information in a simple pamphlet or medicine bottle.
  • 44% of adult can perform intermediate tasks, such as determining facts from reference material.
  • 13% of the U.S. population tested as proficient, meaning they are capable of reading and comparing editorial viewpoints.

As a state, Minnesota outperforms national averages; however, many Minnesotans are still tragically left behind in reaching their literacy potentials. For example,

  • 12% of Minnesotans over the age of 25 (381,345 adults) lack high school diplomas or equivalents according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
  • 8% (254,230 individuals) of Minnesota’s adult population is at the lowest of five levels of functional literacy.

With approximately 200,000 Minnesotans needing ESL classes we are happy to be able to make a small dent in that number with our Somali neighbors.

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