It is startling and it is shaming: in a country that prides itself on being among the most enlightened in the world, 25 million American adults cannot read the poison warnings on a can of pesticide, a letter from their child’s teacher, or the front page of a newspaper. An additional 35 million read below the level needed to function successfully in our society. The United States ranks forty-ninth among 158 member nations of the UN in literacy, and wastes over $100 billion annually as a result. The problem is not merely an embarrassment, it is a social and economic disaster.
In Illiterate America, Jonathan Kozol, author of National Book Award-winning Death at an Early Age, addresses this national disgrace. Combining hard statistics and heartrending stories, he describes the economic and the human costs of illiteracy. Kozol analyses and condemns previous government action—and inaction—and, in a passionate call for reform, he proposes a specific program to conquer illiteracy.
One out of every three American adults cannot read this book—which is why everyone else must.
Jonathan Kozol is the author of Death at an Early Age (for which he received the National Book Award), Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace, and other award-winning books about young children and their public schools. He travels and lectures about educational inequality and racial injustice.