1.5 Million Adults In Wisconsin Qualify For Literacy Services
by Erika Janik
Wisconsinites struggling with various literacy skills is a “silent crisis,” according to a local literacy expert.
Michele Erikson, the executive director of Wisconsin Literacy Inc., a coalition of 77 literacy agencies throughout Wisconsin that strives to make learning to read, write and interpret language less intimidating. She said hundreds of thousands of people contend with literacy problems.
“We say that about a million and a half people qualify for literacy services,” said Erikson.
Erikson said these are people that function at the two lowest levels of literacy: “below basic” and “basic.” Those at a below basic level struggle to locate an intersection on a map, to calculate the total cost of a bill, or to fill out a social security form. Basic literacy, which encompasses a higher percentage of Wisconsinites, includes skills like understanding a bus schedule, cost comparison shopping and an interpreting the dosage on a medication bottle.
But many people that struggle with literacy never seek help. About 85 percent of those with literacy challenges don’t tell their health care provider or employer, and more than half don’t even tell their spouse.
“There’s a deep level of shame involved in not having a skill that most people attain in kindergarten, (or) first or second grade,” said Erikson.
Literacy has a personal toll, and also affects the community, she said.
“Engaging in business or retail, in the school systems with parents coming to learn about how their kids are doing in school, or understanding conversations with your health care provider, literacy is one of those issues that infiltrates every aspect of a person’s day,” explained Erikson. “You can imagine that creates a lot of stress on individuals.”
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