Functional Literacy in the U.S.

Basic Reading Skills and the Literacy of America’s Least Literate Adults
Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)
Supplemental Studies
February 2009

This document provides loads of information about adults with low literacy.  Instead of completing the main literacy assessment, adults who were  unable to successfully answer the core literacy tasks completed a supplemental assessment, which gathered information about their letter-reading, word-reading, word-identification, and basic comprehension skills. The supplemental assessment used common products—such as a carbonated beverage can or a box of cold medicine—to evaluate the skills of low literacy adults.

The assessment measured functional literacy, defined in the document as "using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential" and attempted to answer the questions:
What basic functional literacy tasks can adults at the lowest level of literacy perform?
How do key subgroups, especially native versus nonnative English speakers, differ in their ability to perform these most basic functional tasks?

The facts and figures are fascinating.  Among other factors, low educational attainment, multiple disabilities, and poverty are commonalities shared by many adults with low literacy.

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