Joplin NALA Read Works to Address Adult Literacy Crisis

On September 8, the world will mark the 48th annual International Literacy Day to remind us all that reading, writing, and basic math remain an elusive target for nearly 800 million adults around the globe. Joplin NALA Read is part of a national network of organizations that work every minute of every day to end the adult literacy crisis. 

According to ProLiteracy, the largest membership organization advancing the cause of adult literacy and basic education in the nation, more than 36 million adults in the U.S. lack the most basic literacy skills, and 15 percent of Americans without a diploma don’t have jobs. 

“Here at home, in our own community, this translates to over 11,000 low literate adults,” said Joan Doner, Program Coordinator, Joplin NALA Read. Even more alarming is the fact that 11 million adults in America are nonliterate in English.  Out of the 117,000 residents of Jasper County, 8% live in households where a language other than English is spoken, according to the 2014 U.S. Census. The number of families with limited English language skills (classified in government documents as Limited English Proficient, abbreviated to LEP) has doubled in Jasper County from 2008 to 2012. Compounding that, a child who grows up in a home with one illiterate parent is twice as likely to be illiterate, do poorly in school, and perhaps drop out.” (

It is vital to call attention to the problem of illiteracy.  But even more essential is the need to reach the people who need help in overcoming their illiteracy.  Low adult literacy affects every facet of our lives. Low literate adults have a higher incarceration rate, are more likely to be on public assistance, have higher health care costs, and are less likely to participate in their child’s education. Literacy helps families be healthier and safer and provides people sustainable opportunities to support themselves through work, contributing ultimately to the economic growth of our region and our country. In addition, research shows that children achieve superior outcomes in school and in life when they receive literacy support outside the classroom.  This support consistently results in higher graduation rates, increased future earning potential, and improved quality of life.  Marj Boudreaux, Executive Director, Joplin NALA Read, commented, “By helping adults increase their basic skills and understand the importance of literacy, we are helping adults reach their full potential and access all their options in life while strengthening the literacy support for future generations.” 

“Low literacy costs the nation more than two hundred billion dollars each year in lost productivity, as well as an additional one to two billion in health and safety issues,” said Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “Every dollar spent on adult literacy and education provides returns to the country through higher employment, added tax revenues, reduced welfare payments, and less crime.” 

In recognition of International Literacy Day, Joplin NALA Read is promoting literacy awareness with a radio spot on KZRG Morning Newswatch featuring NALA student Amna Moustafa, an English Language Learner from Egypt. Amna, along with her sister Salma, are working on improving their English with a goal of enrolling in an American university. Listen in on Tuesday morning, September 8th.  For more information on Joplin NALA Read’s services, visit or call 417-782-2646.