Community Service Center

Educate Yourself! - Literacy

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.


  • The California State Adult Literacy Survey found that adults in California had average scores of 270 on the prose scale, 263 on the document scale, and 269 on the quantitative scale. These proficiencies were 6 to 8 points lower than those of adults living in the West, but comparable to those of adults nationwide. In all three populations —the state, region, and nation—average scores were in the Level 2 range (226 to 275).
  • Twenty-four to 26 percent of the respondents in California demonstrated skills in the lowest level of prose, document, and quantitative proficiencies (Level 1) according to the California State Adult Literacy Survey.
  • 16% of the population lack basic literacy skills

For more information on adult literacy in California and to learn about requirements for NALS' literacy levels 1-5 visit

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  • 15,667,433 adults in North America are illiterate.
  • According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), in 2003, 14% of American adults were Below Basic prose literacy level (meaning that they have no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills).
  • The NAAL also reported that 55 % of adults with Below Basic prose literacy did not graduate from high school, compared to 15 percent of adults in the general population.

Visit for more information on literacy rates in the United States.


  • According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in the world today, there are about 1 billion non-literate adults.
  • These are Stats from the CIA website:

    definition:age 15 and over can read and write

    total population:84.1%



    note:almost three-quarters of the world's 775 million illiterate adults are found in only ten countries (in descending order: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo); of all the illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women; extremely low literacy rates are concentrated in South and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (2010 est.)

Visit for more information on literacy rates throught the world.