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.”
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