The Effects of Illiteracy in a Family


The National Assessment of Adult Literacy, or NAAL, revealed that about 14 percent of U.S. residents are illiterate or have extreme difficulty with reading and written comprehension, according to an report printed in 2008. Illiteracy in a family can create a perpetual cycle of illiteracy running throughout generations and can result in a cycle of poverty, poor education and reduced opportunity for members of the family.


  • Children learn from the parents and older family members who surround them. When illiteracy exists in a home, the stunted growth in communication skills is often passed on to the children. The development of speaking, reading and writing abilities are compromised when children are not able to practice them every day at home. Development starts at the infant stage, and by the time a child is walking and talking, she will not be as far along in communication skills as her peers if she is part of an illiterate family.


  • If illiteracy exists within a family, education is compromised. An estimated 1 million high school dropouts were illiterate in 1996, according to The Right to Read Foundation. Even if a child does make it to school, older generations cannot assist with homework or filling out forms that may be necessary for the student's success. If reading and writing is not emphasized in a home, students are less likely to succeed in those areas in their educational experience.


  • A lack of communicative and educational development inevitably leads to missed opportunities for those within a family. An essay published by The National Right to Read Foundation in 1996 stated that the number of illiterate adults has been increasing by at least 250,000 each year, on top of the already 400,000 legal immigrants and 800,000 illegal immigrants that are illiterate, as estimated at the time of publication. Older generations may find it hard to obtain or hold down a job because they cannot read or write, and children can fall behind in school and may even drop out if they cannot keep up with their peers. Sustaining a career path is almost impossible without being able to read and write, and gathering the education to begin working toward getting a job to earn a living is near impossible.


  • The combination of a lack of communication development and education results in a lack of opportunities, which, in turn, results in a low socioeconomic status for families who are illiterate. These families can become stuck within a cycle of poverty that becomes difficult to break. Generations that are illiterate within a family cannot teach each other the communication skills that are often necessary to get an education and make money, so the families generally have to live in low-income areas that may have high crime rates and drug-abuse problems. Families also can become dependent on a social system, which can result in adding to the more than $6 billion that was estimated in 1996 to be the cost each year spent on welfare programs, unemployment compensation and education classes that result from illiteracy in society.

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