The U.S. Department of Education claims that at least 20 percent of American adults are functionally illiterate. The group can read words but they cannot comprehend their meanings, synthesize information or make decisions based on what they read.
And at a time when literacy skills are declining, technological gear and gadgets are flooding the market daily, offering myriad new ways to communicate in an expanding global village and entertain a seemingly insatiable market.
Illiteracy among Americans also signals a growing health risk. Doctors note that adults with limited literacy face formidable problems using the health care system.
In one study, an estimated 30 percent of some 2,650 patients lacked the literacy skills to understand the written instructions on prescription bottles.
At the same time, adults experiencing reading difficulties are less likely to use screening procedures, follow medical regimens, keep appointments or seek help early in the course of a serious illness.
21st century statistics provided by Alan Greenspan, a former government financial adviser, revealed the following:
- Since 2001, the average U.S. household has at least one TV set turned on for about seven hours a day.
- The average school-aged child spends 27 hours per week watching TV (some pre-school children watch much more).
- Over the course of a year, children spend more time watching TV than they spend in school or participating in any other activity except sleep.
- Children’s TV shows contain about 20 violent acts per hour.
- A high percentage of a child’s viewing time is spent watching shows intended for adults: 40 percent of a 6-year-old’s viewing time, and about 80 percent of a 12-year-old’s viewing time.
- An average American child will have watched 100,000 acts of televised violence, including 8,000 murders, by the time he or she finishes the 6th grade.
More recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2004 recommended no TV for children younger than 2 and no more than two hours of high-quality programming for older kids. Frequent TV viewers in early childhood were most likely to score in the highest 10 percent for concentration problems, impulsiveness and restlessness.