“Duuh” — With Literacy Rates Slipping, Is America Dumbing Down?

By Marcelina Santiago • May 5th, 2008 • Category: Public Affairs

Americans are losing their ability to read so dramatically that about a quarter of adult citizens can’t fill out a job application, and significant fractions would be challenged comprehending the instructions on a medical bottle, according to a variety of recent reports.

            It’s not just a personal problem. Semi-literate Americans are less likely to become active members in their community, vote and hold high paying jobs.

            Out of about 191 million adults in the U.S., about a quarter cannot read a newspaper and a little more than a quarter cannot read above the eighth-grade level, according to a report released by the National Institute for Literacy (NIL).

            Other activities seem to be pushing reading to the side.


“Children today are experiencing their early years being blitzed with TV, videos, hand-held digital games, computers and other mechanical devices that remove socialization, stamina, attention span and proactive learning,” said Judy Birnbaum, an elementary school literacy teacher who works with low-level readers in Jamaica, Queens.

“An appreciation of the writt