It was amazing for me to find out that a staggering 85% of all juveniles who interact with the juvenile court system are functionally low literate. This means that they struggle with reading and comprehension, which has significant consequences for their future. Did you know that not only are low literacy rates associated with higher rates of crime, but they also make it difficult for individuals to break the cycle of poverty and dependence on welfare?
The Connection Between Literacy and Crime
It’s really not that hard to see the connection between literacy and crime. If you struggle with reading and comprehension, it is pretty obvious that you are simply going to be less likely to fully understand and follow laws and rules. This, in turn, typically leads to a higher likelihood of getting into trouble with the law at some point down the road.
In addition, low literacy rates can make it difficult for individuals to find and maintain employment, which also can increase the temptation to turn to illegal activities as a means of making a living. Conversely, higher literacy rates can lead to better job prospects and a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment, which can in turn decrease the likelihood of criminal behavior.
The Link Between Literacy and Welfare
Not only does low literacy make it difficult for individuals to find and maintain employment, it can also lead to a greater reliance on welfare. This is because many job applications, important documents & work responsibilities require a certain level of reading and comprehension skills. If someone is unable to read and understand these materials, they may struggle to find work and may need to rely on government assistance to make ends meet.
On the other hand, if we are able to raise literacy rates, I believe that there are a number of people who would no longer need welfare in the way that they currently do. They would be able to find and keep good jobs, providing for themselves and their families without long-term reliance on government assistance.
The Disproportionate Impact of Low Literacy Rates
Unfortunately, the issue of low literacy disproportionately affects black and brown kids, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. This is particularly apparent in the juvenile court system, where a higher percentage of black and brown kids are functionally low literate compared to their white counterparts.
One possible reason for this discrepancy is the fact that school changes at around the fourth grade. Up until this point, much of the material covered in school consists of pictures, letters, and numbers. However, starting in the fourth grade, students are introduced to more complex subjects like math, literature, and science, which require a higher level of reading and comprehension skills. I’m sure you’ve heard of “story problems”, which is where you must be able to read & comprehend to not just find the problem, but to also come up with the answer.
85% of all juveniles who interact with the juvenile court system are functionally low literate.
For students who struggle with literacy, this can be a major roadblock. They may struggle to keep up with their peers and may fall behind, leading to a higher likelihood of getting into trouble and ending up in the juvenile court system.
The Solution: Improving Low Literacy Rates
In my eyes it’s clear that improving literacy rates is a primary key to reducing crime and improving outcomes for juveniles. But what can we do to help accomplish this? Here are a few potential solutions:
- Invest in early childhood education: By providing high-quality early childhood education, we can give kids a strong foundation in reading and other important skills. This can help to prevent literacy issues from developing in the first place.
- Provide targeted support for struggling readers: For students who are already struggling with literacy, targeted support can make a big difference. This can include things like one-on-one tutoring, specialized reading programs, and other interventions.
- Make reading a priority: Reading should be emphasized and valued in schools and at home. This can involve setting aside dedicated reading time, providing access to a wide variety of books, and encouraging a love of reading in kids.
With my entire heart, I believe that improving literacy rates is crucial for reducing crime and improving outcomes for kids. By doing some of the things listed above, I think that we can help to improve literacy rates and begin creating a brighter future for all our kids.
For more information like this contact me to schedule a Cross Cultural Literacy Session for your church or organization. You can also check out our Recommended Resources to see a list of videos, books & documentaries we think are helpful to those who are looking to learn more.