What is literacy?
“Literacy is using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”
–The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL)
“Literacy is an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”
–The National Literacy Act of 1991
“Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”
–The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
What is functional illiteracy?
Functional illiteracy is a term used to describe reading and writing skills that are inadequate for managing daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level. Functional illiteracy is contrasted with illiteracy in the strict sense, meaning the inability to read or write simple sentences in any language. Purely illiterate persons cannot read or write in any capacity, for all practical purposes. In contrast, functionally illiterate persons can read and possibly write simple sentences with a limited vocabulary, but cannot read or write well enough to deal with the everyday requirements of life in their own society.
For example, an illiterate person may not understand the written words cat or dog, may not recognize the letters of the alphabet, and may be unable to write their own name. In contrast, a functionally illiterate person may well understand these words and more, but might be incapable of reading and comprehending job advertisements, past-due notices, newspaper articles, banking paperwork, complex signs and posters, and so on.
What are some of the effects of functional illiteracy?
Business Losses: A “Literacy at Work” study published by the Northeast Institute in 2001 found that business losses attributed to basic skill deficiencies run into billions of dollars a year due to low productivity, errors, and accidents attributed to functional illiteracy.
Increased Crime: 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. Research in North America tells us that criminal offenders have lower average literacy levels than the general population and that neighborhoods with lower literacy levels have higher crime rates.
Increased Poverty: According to the International Bureau of Education there is a close connection between illiteracy and poverty at all levels–global, national, and subnational. The countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest economically. Poverty breeds illiteracy by forcing children to drop out of school to work, and these illiterate people are forced to stay on the lowest levels of the workforce and thus remain in poverty.
What literacy services are available in Bergen County?
The Workforce Learning Link (WLL) is a State and Federal grant administered through the Bergen County One-Stop Career Center that supports literacy labs at sites throughout the County, delivering workforce training programs and services directly to dislocated workers, welfare recipients, and other job seekers. WLL provides adult learners instruction in reading, writing, and math; communication; financial literacy; job search; employability; and life skills. Using digital television technology, streaming video, computer software, the Internet, and print materials, the Workforce Learning Link provides interactive training services that allow participants to address individual employment-related issues at their own pace. Certified instructors deliver workforce training programs and services in a classroom setting. For more information, contact the One-Stop at 201-329-9600 x5648.
Project Literacy of Greater Bergen County was established in 1987 in an effort to help those who have lower levels of reading proficiency and to increase the level of public consciousness on the issue of adult literacy. The group consists of participants from corporations, literacy providers, small businesses, social service agencies, community groups, and the media. In 2010, Project Literacy of Greater Bergen County was accredited by ProLiteracy, a national literacy organization.
As a non-profit organization serving greater Bergen County, Project Literacy is a resource to the community on literacy issues, maintains a clearinghouse on literacy information within the Bergen County area, recognizes literacy efforts through its annual awards ceremony, and coordinates the design and implementation of workforce tutoring programs.
Project Literacy of Greater Bergen County runs a free tutoring program for students in the areas of English as a Second Language, basic literacy, and math. At present Project Literacy has more than 100 dedicated tutors serving more than 110 students.
Project Literacy also provides a valuable document entitled, “Pathways to Literacy,” which can be found on the Project Literacy Website. This document is an up-to-date listing of the many agencies and libraries that provide literacy programs in the Bergen County area, ranging from English as a Second Language and basic literacy to GED. This list is updated at least every two years. Learn more about Project Literacy by visiting their Website.
Additional Literacy Resources
New Jersey Business & Industry Association: Basic Skills Workforce Training Program