The other day I researched links between illiteracy and crime and was overwhelmed with the results. If you’ve ever wondered, “Does teaching kids to read really make a difference?” the answer is a resounding YES.
I’ll throw a couple of interesting stats at you…all borrowed from the websites I linked to at the end of the stats…I was surprised how many I found.
When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade (Arizona Republic (9-15-2004)). Evidence shows that children who do not read by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, or go to prison. So many nonreaders wind up in jail that Arizona officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs.
In California “if the child isn’t reading on 4th grade level when tested they will plan to budget building another jail cell. “Based on this year’s fourth-grade reading scores,” observes Paul Schwartz, a Coalition “Principal in Residence” at the U. S. Department of Education, said “California is already planning the number of new prison cells it will need in the next century.” from Democracy and Equity: CES’s Tenth Common Principle1998 by Kathleen Cushman
Dr. Lynell Burmark, MultiMedia Schools January/February 2001: “The reality is that, in California at least, if you don’t know how to read by the end of fourth grade, the state is building you a prison cell.”
60% of Urban School Children do not graduate from High School. Forty percent of those who do read at only a 4th grade level.(Edu-Cyberpg)
Low literacy is strongly related to crime. 70% of prisoners fall into the lowest two levels of reading proficiency (National Institute for Literacy, 1998).
Low literacy is strongly related to unemployment. More than 20% of adults read as or below a fifth grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage.
Literacy statistics and juvenile court
- 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illerate.
- More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illerate.
- Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.
- Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. (Begintoread.com)
So, the moral of this story is that mentoring and tutoring kids (especially in reading) can directly lead to a decrease in crime over time. \