Literacy Facts

An Investment in Literacy Benefits Our Entire Community

  •  83.5% of preschoolers in Pima County (approximately 20,400) are at risk for not being ready for kindergarten.
    (First Things First, 2015)

Children’s early school performance improves when their parents help them learn to read, but many parents don’t know how important it is to read to their children. Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona works with pediatric clinics to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Families served read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills, and a six-month developmental edge over their peers. National studies show that parents served by Reach Out and Read are up to four times more likely to read aloud to their children.

  • Only 40% of 3rd graders in Pima County are proficient in reading and writing.
    (Arizona State Department of Education, 2016)

Students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a high school diploma. The number rises when those children also grow up in poverty (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013). Reading Seed provides one-to-one reading coaching and free books to help struggling readers catch up with their peers. On average, Reading Seed students improve their reading skills 30% faster than the general student population. This significant increase in the rate of learning is exactly what is needed to get these children caught up and reading at grade level.

  •  17% of Arizonans 16 and older do not have a high school diploma or equivalent and are not enrolled in school.
    (Arizona State Department of Education, 2012)

High school dropouts are more than three times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested, and more than eight times more likely to be incarcerated (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2008). Stories that Soar! encourages writing by sharing children’s original stories through theater productions, visual arts, and handcrafted books. Together with Reading Seed, our programming helps children stay engaged, learn to love reading and writing, and succeed in school. 99% of teachers report improved attitude and behavior about writing after Stories that Soar! residencies at their schools. 97% of teachers report students working with a Reading Seed coach have significant or extraordinary improvement in motivation, excitement, and confidence about reading.

  •  In Pima County, 25,000 households are “linguistically isolated,” meaning no adult in the family over 14 can speak English proficiently.
    (US Census Bureau, 2012)

In addition to immigrants from Latin America, hundreds of refugees are resettled in Tucson each year. Gaining proficiency in English is critical to their integration and success. English Language Acquisition for Adults (ELAA) offers free English classes to more than 1,600 adult students from over 45 different countries. Of adult learners who receive 12+ hours of instruction, more than 90% report increases in life skills due to increased language proficiency. 

  • In Arizona, an estimated 530,000 adults read at or below a fifth grade equivalent.
    (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003)

Adults with low literacy struggle to read basic instructions or apply for jobs. Without postsecondary education, they are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, or in jobs that don’t provide middle-class wages. Their children are more likely to grow up in poverty. Adult Basic Literacy tutors adult students who need to improve their reading, writing, and math skills to enter job-training programs, gain their high school equivalency, get better jobs, or enroll in higher education. Of adult learners who receive 12+ hours of instruction, 60% report attaining an employment-related goal. 

  • One in every four households in southern Arizona is living under the poverty line.
    (US Census Bureau, 2015)

Not only does Tucson have one of the highest poverty rates in the state, the city has an even worse rate for its children. Nearly 1 in every 3 Tucsonans under the age of 18 lives in poverty (34.9 percent). Poverty is systemic, strongly linked to literacy-related issues such as lack of education, job opportunities, and low self-confidence.  All of Literacy Connects’ programs fight poverty by giving people tools to break the cycle, as children or in adulthood. 

  • Growing up poor affects children’s learning.
    (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2015)

Children living in poverty tend to have lower scores on standardized tests, lower grades, and are less likely to graduate from high school. Increasing adults’ earning potential through literacy helps children. 

  • The greatest predictor of a child’s success in school is the education level of the parent.
    (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 2003)

Literacy is learned. Low literacy is passed along to children by parents who cannot read or write, thus promoting the cycle of poverty and crime. Parents are their children’s first teachers. Adult literacy pays benefits for generations to come. 

  • Low literacy rates have a direct impact on our economic well-being.
    (Arizona Department of Education, 2012)

In Arizona, the median annual earnings of a person with less than a high school diploma is $8,580 less than an individual with a diploma per year. This means that our state loses over seven billion dollars is lost in taxable income every year. Increasing literacy helps boost tax revenues and decreases dependence on government support. 

  • Less than 10% of those who need literacy services are being served.
    (Arizona Department of Education, 2004)

Hundreds of additional children and adults could easily benefit from literacy programming. Literacy Connects needs more funding to support the growth of programs to recruit, train, supervise and support more volunteers.