Minn Evening Telegraph Saturday, Jan. 2, 1971 A-5 Many young Americans can't read well enough By LOUIS HARRIS CT-NYN Syndicate One of the most poignant surveys conducted by the Harris organization in 1970 revealed that approximately 18.5 million Americans 16 years of age and over fall into what might be called a "marginal survival" status — simply because they don't read well enough to function effectively. This excludes one percent who are prevented from reading by blindness or other visual defects and another 8 per cent of the public who have a special communications barrier, such as language difficulty or deafness. Among those people who are blessed with reasonably good sight and with an ability to communicate normally with others, a survey the Harris organization conducted for the National Reading Council, based on standard forms Americans are asked to fill out every day, indicated that just on reading deficiency grounds alone: — Over 4 million could not read well enough to qualify for public assistance on welfare. — A much higher 10 million would have trouble qualifying for Social Security. — Over 11 million could not quaify for a driver's license. — A higher 14 million would not qualify for a bank loan because they could not read well enough to answer several key, elementary inquiries. — A substantial 48 million people have a sufficiently serious reading deficiency to keep them from properly qualifying for Medicaid care. The forms tested were the simplest which could be found. For purposes of the test, they were made even simpler than the real forms are in real life. An Interviewer was available on the spot, not to read for them but to help them with spelling and with any other amenities. In real life, these people with reading deficiencies are not likely to have such friendly assistance. When more involved areas, such as employment forms, Census forms, veterans benefits, and others are contemplated, it is entirely probable that functional illiteracy in America is vastly understated when it is estimated to be around the 18.5 million mark. It may be true that today over half of all high school graduates are going on to college, but left in the wake of these privileged young people is a sizable population that is struggling to survive, simply because they never learned to read adequately. A nationwide cross section of 1,483 individuals 16 years of age and over was asked to fill out the forms in the presence of a Harris in- te.rviewer. The results represent minimum measurements of functional reading difficulty people in America have with basic, simple thresholds through which they have to pass to be able to partake of some of the basic benefits of modern life. The overall results, moreover, mask some wide differences in functional literacy among key segments of the population: — As might be expected, lower income people (under $5,000) include as many as 18 per cent who experience handicaps due to reading deficiency, compared with only 8 per cent in the over $10,000 income bracket. — Black reading deficiency is much higher than that for whites. Fully 22 per cent of all blacks surveyed had some real trouble in qualifying for "reading survival," compared with 12 per cent of the whites. Even when controls for in- come are applied in the under $5,000 group alone, 25 per cent of the blacks and a much lower 16 per cent of whites failed to qualify in answering the test forms. — Age is another sharp differentiator. Among people 50 and over, 17 per cent had trouble with simple capability, compared with oniy 9 per cent of the 16-24 year-old group who experienced the same difficulty. — Education was an obvious pivotal factor. Among those whose schooling did not go beyond the eighth grade, 23 per cent did not possess enough reading capability to fill out the forms, compared with an 8 per cent failure rate for those with some college training. The results of this Harris national literacy test point up a kind of handicap which is largely taken for granted in the course of everyday life in this country. When roughly one in five blacks, older people, lower income people, and those without much formal education are incapable of enjoying some of the most basic eoo'^mic privileges of society — solely who know they have reading deficiency — the situation is startling and even shocking. 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