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Americans Don’t Read… and That’s Affecting Our Elections

2 ½ min

In 2013, the Nation’s Report Card showed that only 38% of high school seniors were proficient in reading. With scores like that, the U.S. isn’t likely to earn the “most literate country” award any time soon.

So what is America’s international literacy ranking? According to The Washington Post, the U.S. places seventh behind Nordic countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Such a score is obtained by looking at newspaper circulation and readership, library availability, education access, reading scores, and computer usage in each nation.  

The Washington Post bemoans the fact that the leading nation of the free world ranks so low in such an important area. And well they should, particularly as the following U.S. literacy statistics are even more alarming:   

  • 14% of adults can’t read.
  • Only 13% of adults can read at a proficient level.
  • 28% of adults didn’t read a book in the last year.
  • 50% of adults can’t read a book written at an 8th grade level.

But so what, right? In our enlightened digital age, what harm does it really bring if American literacy is tanking?

A lot of harm, according to John Adams, particularly when it comes to elections. In 1761, he noted:

“The very Ground of our Liberties, is the freedom of Elections. Every Man has in Politicks as well as Religion, a Right to think and speak and Act for himself. No man either King or Subject, Clergyman or Layman has any Right to dictate to me the Person I shall choose for my Legislator and Ruler. I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any Man judge, unless his Mind has been opened and enlarged by Reading. A Man who can read, will find in his Bible, in the common sermon Books that common People have by them and even in the Almanack and News Papers, Rules and observations, that will enlarge his Range of Thought, and enable him the better to judge who has and who has not that Integrity of Heart, and that Compass of Knowledge and Understanding, which form the Statesman.”

Considering the state of the modern election circus, would you say it’s high time for Americans to step up their literacy game?


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Image Credit: samuel bletenholz (cropped)

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.

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True and this problem fits within our postmodern culture which has rejected the concept of absolutes in any area of life.


Annie- Great article- here's mine for you !! Once we educate them we must allow them secure systems free from corporate software vulnerabilities


When the president admits he doesn’t read, it doesn’t help the cause for literacy.


So true. And the FEW are changing Language and it's usage to suit thier needs.. Look at the spelling of politics.. Also.. there's OBSOLETE LANGUAGE within our CONSTITUTION... How can that be possible, for a governing document??? Ex. In the emoluments clause, the word encreased.. is OBSOLETE.. yet it's within our governing franchise... This is why laws take forever to be written... The language... Which can be twisted to perform better under different circumstances... All current Language can be traced back to the URDU Language. URDU is the egyptian slave Language.. You were one class or another... The King's.. the Urdu.. or slave.. The do'er.. Notice the syllables are reversed.. At times it's the meaning reversed.. The URDU word HARD.. is pronounced.. "Soft" with french accent.. Very clearly.. Welcome to the universal truth, we are still SLAVES to the rich..


I suggest those numbers are low. Turn off the TV - I stopped watching almost 20 years ago; I currently read about 3 books a week. Get rid of the games and limit cell phones to 5 minutes a day.