Making Indianapolis 100% Literate

Is it really 20%????

One in Five Adults in Indianapolis can't read this webpage. 

Many people can't believe that one in five adults struggle with reading. We have received these numbers from the government survey conducted by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy ( Their methods for data collection are included there. 

 According to their study, nationally, 14% of adults (30 million) read at what they consider a "below basic" level.

Another great reference is the ProLiteracy website at

There are many discussions about how to define literacy levels. What is important to recognize is that  20% of adults in Indianapolis do read below a sixth grade level. (Detroit generally is considered to have the highest level of functionally illiterate adults, at 53%) This does NOT mean that they don't know their alphabet or can not read basic street signs, but what it does mean is that they struggle significantly with their reading. They do not read quickly or accurately. Comprehension, of a newspaper, or even a billboard, is an issue.

For example, the standard for being able to comprehend a newspaper article is generally considered to be a sixth grade reading level, so though an adult who is reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level can read many of the words, they read so slowly, and with so much difficulty, they are unable to understand the content. Adults reading at this level find it near impossible to fill out a job application form, get a driver's license, read their prescriptions, or study for a GED.

Literacy is not an either/or issue as much as it is a continuum.


  • IPS has the lowest graduation rate in the country for White male students and Black male students.

  • The average reading level for American adults is 8th grade.

  • Only 31% of eight graders in the nation are reading at their grade level.

  • 70% of inmates struggle with reading.

  • In the past ten years the average literacy level required for all American jobs rose by 14 percent.

  • The U.S. Department of Education predicts that in the next decade this literacy gap will produce a shortage of 12 million qualified workers.

  • Health care costs for an adult who can not read are FOUR times greater annually than for a literate adult.

  • More adults in Indiana between 18-25 will declare bankruptcy in the next year than will graduate from college.

Literacy is an educational, health, economic, and family issue.

Literacy  is a community  issue.