Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Prison Literacy & Books for Boys

Since I began writing books for boys, I’ve read articles indicating that most prison inmates grew up as struggling or reluctant readers, or they can’t read at all. Obviously there are many reasons for their reading troubles, but I was struck with the statistics because I also grew up as a reluctant reader.

Following is from a report about prison literacy by Kenneth W. Mentor, J.D., Ph.D.

“Illiteracy is perhaps the greatest common denominator in correctional facilities. Data collected from the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) show that literacy levels among inmates is considerably lower than for the general population. For example, of the 5 levels measured by the NALS, 70% of inmates scored at the lowest two levels of literacy (below 4th grade). Other research suggests that 75% of inmates are illiterate (at the 12th grade level) and 19% are completely illiterate. Forty percent are functionally illiterate. In real world terms, this means that the individual would be unable to write a letter explaining a billing error. In comparison, the national illiteracy rate for adult Americans stands at 4%, with 21% functionally illiterate.

“A related concern is that prisoners have a higher proportion of learning disabilities than the general population. Estimates of learning disability are as high as 75-90% for juvenile offenders. Low literacy levels and high rates of learning disabilities have contributed to high dropout rates. Nationwide, over 70% of all people entering state correctional facilities have not completed high school, with 46% having had some high school education and 16.4% having had no high school education at all. Since there is a strong link between low levels of education and high rates of criminal activity, it is logical to assume that high dropout rates will lead to higher crime rates.”
http://kenmentor.com/papers/literacy.htm

Fortunately I’m a reluctant reader who didn’t become a prisoner, but I’m very excited about a development by my publisher. They have developed extensive workbook materials that are now being used in prisons. My action-adventures & mysteries teach character, personal responsibility, moral and spiritual principles. And the books are written in such a way that the reader is nearly forced to move on to the next chapter.

If you have a struggling reader, I urge you to get a few of my books and try them out.

If you’re in a position to do it, I hope you’ll share this information with people who work in prison ministry.

There are also opportunities to use my books, and the workbooks, through a mentoring program which is also available.

Remember, readers are the leaders others follow.

Max Elliot Anderson

10 comments:

James D. Maxon said...

Good one. Makes me glad I have my booksforyouth.com blog.

max said...

Keep up your good work, James.

Janet Muirhead Hill said...

This is a very much needed ministry. It's terrific that your publisher has issued a workbook as a tool to help.

max said...

Thank you Janet. I know they'll appreciate that.

Tween Lit Crit said...

Wonderful, Max. I look forward to spending more time at your blog and like the idea of your ministry very much.
I remember reading (I can't remember where!) about a ministry in which people went into a juvenile prison and read stories aloud after lights out... I've had this ministry idea on a back burner for awhile since hearing of it...
I'm looking forward to reading some of your work...

max said...

Thank you for your comment, Tween Lit Crit. I appreciate it.

Mrs. W. said...

This article is so inspiring. I have many students who state that reading "is not important". What would your answer to them be?

max said...

Mrs. W

I tell them that there are processes that go on in the brain, while reading, that don't happen in any other way. I also remind them that in television, video games, DVD's and other electronic devices, they never have to use their imagination. And finally I say that readers are the leaders others follow.

Ellen Major said...

This was kind of shocking. it really made me think. But what's being done to help these prison illiterates? Thank you for writing this.

max said...

Ellen, I know of many who are working in this area of helping inmates learn to read or improve their skills.