We read to learn, to experience our world, and to advocate for ourselves — quite simply, to live full lives. In this way, literacy is a fundamental skill needed for life success, yet 450,000 San Diego County residents lack basic reading proficiency. At Words Alive, our goal is to change the lives of children and families in our community by fostering a love of reading, ensuring they won’t be counted among that number. 

Literacy development starts early, and youth who struggle with reading are at a significantly higher risk for illiteracy and low-literacy later in life. Research has shown a strong connection between low-literacy and poor life outcomes such as poverty, reliance on public assistance programs, underemployment, and high risks of incarceration. 

Thankfully, illiteracy and low-literacy are also 100% preventable.

Local Statistics

  • 1 in 5 adults living in San Diego is functionally illiterate.
  • In 2011, only 47% of children attending SDUSD schools entered third grade as proficient readers.
  • 42% of California adults cannot understand the written instruction “Take this medicine on an empty stomach.” (Source: San Diego Council on Literacy)

National Statistics

  • On average, Americans spend two hours a day watching television and only seven minutes reading. 
  • 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading.
  • 20% of American adults read below the level needed to earn a living wage.
  • Illiteracy costs American taxpayers an estimated $20 billion each year.
  • $73 billion is spent annually for health care as a result of low health literacy skills among US adults. 
  • 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read.