Why Adolescent Literacy Matters Now

The Literacy Project is dedicated to eradicating illiteracy in children, specifically before they graduate from the second grade. But why is that particular age so significant?

The answer to that question lies with the impending approach of adolescence and the changes that take place as a child grows into a young adult. These changes can be environmental, emotional, and behavioral in nature. Studies show that being equipped with basic literacy skills before this milestone takes place can mean the difference between a positive, productive adulthood or a negative one. That’s why The Literacy Project has made it its mission to give the gift of literacy to children so they can become successful adolescents. This mission is particularly relevant today because of its impact on our society as a whole. Here are just a few reasons why adolescent literacy matters now more than ever.


Adolescents are classified by the World Health Organization as any young person between the ages of 10 and 19. During those 9 years, a child grows into a young adult and begins to develop the opinions, passions, and causes that make up their identity. This is also the time where individuals gravitate towards a political ideology. This is significant because, in this 21st-century world, the way adolescents form these opinions relies so much on digesting printed text and information. Luckily, we live in an age where so much knowledge is widely available and access to it can be as easy as unlocking the smartphone in your pocket. But what use is printed knowledge if the adolescent wanting to access it lacks basic literacy skills?

In a world where there are ever increasing issues such as immigration, pollution, hunger, homelessness, war, healthcare, and human rights, it is vital for every citizen to be informed about these topics without bias. Without basic literacy skills, adolescents are doomed to form these important opinions based on second-hand knowledge from others instead of using their own thoughts and judgments. This is not only harmful to the adolescent individual but ultimately, to our democracy as a whole. It is critically important in this day and age to have an informed citizenry. In order for that to occur, we must have adolescent as well as childhood literacy; it is an integral part of our freedom in this great country.

Economy and Livelihood

Adolescent literacy plays an enormous role in obtaining employment opportunities, especially in our country’s increasingly knowledge-based economy. This type of economy values innovation and knowledge—transforming those into very real outcomes like money and productivity. With most developing and developed countries participating in a digital revolution, it is vital to have the literacy skills necessary to learn about ways to stay current; otherwise, job opportunities may not be as plentiful or as lucrative for adolescents looking for work. To be part of this global shift towards knowledge-based economies, one must have basic literacy skills acquired by adolescence.


There is a troubling correlation between adolescent illiteracy and negative behaviors. Although it is not clear whether poor literacy skills actually cause behavioral issues, there is a definite correlation between the two. This is because as children grow, they also begin to compare themselves and their literacy skills to others in their class. This can lead to social comparisons that can bring negative emotions to light such as anxiety, depression, and aggression.

The following is an excerpt from a study which makes this quite clear, “The negative effect of poor reading skills on children’s behavior is likely to increase over the elementary grades for several reasons. Research on social comparison indicates that as children get older, they become more aware of their performance compared with peers and assess their relative skills more accurately. As a consequence, poor skills should become more humiliating and a greater cause of anxiety and other negative emotions.”

These negative emotions can also take their toll on their future professional life. Adolescents with poor literacy skills are known to be “more likely to drop out of school and to have unstable work patterns, low job skills, and delinquent behavior in adulthood”.

The good news is that by supporting organizations that aim to eliminate illiteracy before a child reaches adolescence, these problems will decrease and our children will lead better lives, becoming productive and successful citizens. That’s why it’s so important to support organizations like The Literacy Project who make it their mission to end illiteracy for children and make this country a better place. To learn more about how to support The Literacy Project, please consider donating to their cause and giving the gift of literacy today.

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