Literacy in the United States – Blog Series

Surprising information about literacy in the United States

Who knew that 14% of Americans cannot read, and 49% read on an 8th grade level? Another 14% have dyslexia. These are surprising numbers about literacy in the United States. I wish I’d known that when I was in school. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so down on myself.

Each school year, I vowed to work hard, not get behind, pay attention, and make B’s and C’s. Not even A’s would have satisfied me. But alas, by the second week I was already behind in every class that required text book reading.

I felt obligated to try to go to college because everyone else was going. Man, was I nervous! It goes without saying that one semester was all I could manage before I accepted that I was not college material. To redeem myself, I later tried and successfully completed a one-year vo-tech program in fashion merchandising. It did wonders for my self-confidence.

Having children has lots of benefits, but here is one I never would have guessed: every night I read to my children, and as they grew, so did the reading level of the books I read to them. I learned to slow down, read the punctuation, and practice, practice, practice simple reading. Pretty soon I was reading my own books for pleasure.

I am not a big proponent of naming and categorizing every personality trait we humans have; OCD, ADHD, ADD, and so on. But since my days in school during the 1960’s and 70’s, they have given my poor reading skills a name, and that kind of makes me feel better. I am dyslexic and no longer ashamed to admit that I am not a great reader.

Despite that, ‘there are still some books that enriched me personally and professionally, educated me, or were just plain fun to read:


  • Passages by Gail Sheehy (I read this in my early 20’s and it helped me understand myself and accept the stages we all go through.)
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (This book helped me make the leap from student to professional.)
  • Dress for Success by John T. Molloy (My brother gave me this when he saw that I was still dressing like a hippie.)
  • The Game of Life by Florence Scovel Shinn (My mother gave me this to get me through some hard times, when I needed help overcoming my poor life choices and despairing thoughts.)


  • The E Myth by Michael Gerber (was probably the single most important business management book I’ve ever read. It was a long time ago, early in my career but it changed the way I approached my job as owner of a company.)
  • Taming the Paper Tiger by  Barbara Hemphill (Helped me organize my work load so I could be more efficient. I gave a copy to everyone at work with a 7 story filing tray system on their desk.)
  • Creating a New Civilization by the Toffler’s (this book prepared me for the information age. It would be fun to reread and see if their predictions came true.)

Children and literacy in the United States: Studies have shown that children who read significantly below grade level by third-grade continue to struggle and face a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. My next blog post will list some great children’s books. These are such a fun read that kids having difficulties might enjoy reading for fun instead of feeling it is a chore they aren’t very good at, like I did as a child.

See Kerry’s next blog post for more on literacy in the United States (Monday, Sept. 29. 2014) for more of her reading lists including professional interest books, children’s books, fiction and more.

Kerry McCoy is founder and president of and owner of Taborian Hall where Dreamland resides. She is also publisher of Brave Magazine. If you would like to interview Kerry or have her speak at your event contact