Boosting literacy can reduce crime, poverty in St. Louis

Brandon Woods / Illustrator

Brandon Woods / Illustrator

Brandon Woods / Illustrator
Brandon Woods / Illustrator

If you are reading this article, you should be grateful. We never question if our friends, family, or colleagues have trouble reading. However, just across the river, East St. Louis has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the U.S. On an even broader scope, in Missouri, one in six adults age 16 and over lack literacy skills to enter simple information on a job application.

These statistics are shocking. Most of us started reading at a very young age, and it’s hard to understand that 16 percent of Missouri adults are unable to do what we do every day.

Whenever we go to the grocery store, drive on the freeway, go online or apply for a job, we use our reading skills. These are simple daily tasks that underprivileged people on the margins of society might not be able to do.

It is important for us not only as a community in St. Louis, but citizens of the United States, to help improve literacy rates. Being able to read is an important skill for a multitude of reasons, including forging the ability to think critically, increased job opportunities, increased attention for children of single-parent families, and an overall betterment of society in regards to poverty, crime, and drug use.

The ability to read opens doors for more job opportunities. Forecasts predict that by the year 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require at least some postsecondary education. This information is vital.

Without basic reading skills, there is limited opportunity for advancement. Reading is a critical skill in almost every job. Simply put, the most educated in our society are also among the wealthiest. By providing basic tutoring to both children and adults in East St. Louis, illiterate individuals will be able to read and understand a job application, and may even use analytical reading skills on the job.

Another pressing issue linked to this problem is the increased existence of single-parent families.  In such situations, it is difficult for single parents to take on the role of both parents. Extra attention on children is necessary for them to grow, develop, and learn. Oftentimes, children are left to fend for themselves. It is important that these children are able to learn to read in order for them to advance and succeed in today’s modern world. Children should be taught how to read not only for schooling purposes, but for recreational purposes as well. Reading can be a fun and eye-opening activity, stimulating such aspects of creativity and imagination.

It is important to consider the implications of illiteracy. If children do not learn to read and read well, there exists a myriad of negative consequences that they may fall victim to. Illiteracy is closely linked to other issues such as poverty, crime, and drug use. Statistics show more than one-third of all juvenile offenders read below the fourth-grade level. Without a strong focus on education, children may become distracted and consequently involved in negative and even illicit behaviors.

Three thousand students drop out of school each day in America. The majority of these students possess inadequate reading skills. Without the tutoring help they need, America’s youth are being led astray from the path to education and success.

In East St. Louis alone, nearly 28 percent of adults did not complete high school, compared to a national average of 15 percent. Education is a necessity, especially in a continuously advancing modern society. Without a high school diploma, let alone a college degree, advancement in the working world is extremely difficult.

By providing highly publicized awareness and tutoring aid to those who cannot read in the St. Louis area, not only will illiteracy rates decrease, but all of the associated issues of poverty, crime, and drug use have the potential to decrease as well. Tutoring can help prevent students from dropping out or being misled by opposing negative activities.

Anyone who can read is able to contribute to this cause. There are a few organizations involved in literacy tutoring, including the YMCA of St. Louis. Visit to learn more about volunteer tutoring opportunities. Their volunteer opportunities page provides ample information regarding what type of volunteer position you can apply for as well as the multiple locations in the St. Louis area. If people in the St. Louis community can contribute their help, an overall betterment of St. Louis will develop as a result.


Britta Norwick is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.