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"The man who does not read has
over the man who cannot
Illiteracy is an immense problem in the world
today. The United Nations defines illiteracy as
the inability to read and write a simple
sentence in any language. Imagine not being able
to read the ingredients on a package in the
store or to write a simple letter to a friend!
Most of us here in the U.S. cannot imagine such a
thing, and yet in this day and age of
technology, we are increasingly neglecting our
This page will give you statistics about
literacy as well as quotes from prophets and the
scriptures about the importance of reading good
books. Feel free to use this information as
needed in lesson and talks. We must all do our
part to stop illiteracy from taking deeper root
in our society.
- Figures of 1998 show that 16% of the
world population was illiterate (by the UN
definition). That means 944 million people
could not read or write a simple sentence.
Today that figure is higher.
- In the United States alone, one in seven
persons (over 40 million people) can
barely read a job offer or utility bill,
which arguably makes them functionally
illiterate in a developed country such as
- In 2003 the National Assessment of Adult
Literacy (NAAL), conducted by the US
Department of Education, found that fourteen
percent of American adults scored at this
“below basic” level in prose literacy. More
than half of these persons did not have a
high-school diploma or GED. Thirty-seven
percent of persons at this level were White,
thirty-nine percent were Hispanic, and
twenty percent were Black.
- In comparison with the previous NAAL
study in 1992, overall literacy had declined
by 2003, with men doing more poorly than
- Literacy among college graduates
declined between 1992 and 2003, with less
than one third of all graduates at the
highest “proficient” level in 2003.
- One problem in developed countries is
the rise of secondary and tertiary
illiteracy in recent years, which means the
complete or partial loss of previously
existing reading and writing skills due to
lack of practice.
- 44% of American adults do not read a
book in a year.
- A publishing industry study showed that
from April 1990 to March 1991, 6 out of 10
households did not buy a single book.
- Two-thirds of students who cannot read
proficiently by the end of the 4th grade
will end up in jail or on welfare.
- 85 percent of all juveniles who
interface with the juvenile court system are
- More than 60 percent of all prison
inmates are functionally illiterate.
- Penal institution records show that
inmates have a 16% chance of returning to
prison if they receive literacy help, as
opposed to 70% who receive no help. This
equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per
year per inmate and nearly double that
amount for juvenile offenders.
- 90% of welfare recipients are high
- 16 to 19 year old girls at the poverty
level and below, with below average skills,
are 6 times more likely to have
out-of-wedlock children than their reading
- Low literary costs $73 million per year
in terms of direct health care costs. A
recent study by Pfizer put the cost much
- Many missionaries who
show up at the MTC have to be taught how to
read and understand the scriptures because
their literacy level is so low.
- Illiteracy is most often passed on from parent to child. If you don't
read, your children won't likely read
either. Let your children see you read, and
read to them often. They are never to young
or old to read with you.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley
Read good books together . . . I feel sorry
for parents who do not read to their young
children. I feel sorry for children who do
not learn the wonders to be found in good
books . . . If we could follow a slogan that
says, "Turn off the TV and open a good
book," we would do something of substance in
strengthening another generation . . . If
you cannot find good heroes and heroines for
your children on television, help your
children find them in good books.
- D&C 90:15
And set in order the churches, and study and
learn, and become acquainted with all good
books, and with languages, tongues, and
- Discourses of Brigham Young, p.248
We are in a great school, and we should be
diligent to learn, and continue to store up
the knowledge of heaven and of earth, and
read good books . . . . Read good books, and
extract from them wisdom and understanding
as much as you possibly can, aided by the
Spirit of God.
- John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p.274
We want to be alive in the cause of
education. We are commanded of the Lord to
obtain knowledge, both by study and by
faith, seeking it out of the best books. And
it becomes us to teach our children, and
afford them instructions in every branch of
education calculated to promote their
welfare . . . . We want to compile the
intelligence and literacy of this people in
book form, as well as in teaching,
preaching; adopting all the good and useful
books we can obtain; make them.
- Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of
Salvation, Vol.3, p.204
HOME LIBRARIES SHOULD BE PROVIDED. It is
within our power to guide our youth in their
reading and to cultivate in their hearts a
desire for good books. It is most
unfortunate where a person is not possessed
with the desire for good reading. The
reading habit, like charity, should begin at
home. It is the duty of every parent to
provide in his home a library of suitable
books to be at the service of the family.
The library need not be large, nor the books
of the most expensive binding, but there
should be a well chosen variety of the most
select that can be obtained.
Children should be encouraged in the home to
read and be instructed in the value of good
books and how to discriminate between the
good and the bad in literature. It is far
better for a home to be thus provided where
the children can be entertained with a good,
wholesome story than to more than waste
their time . . . upon the streets in company
of evil associates. . . .
Not one of us is so poor but that we are
able to purchase a few good books for the
home. A small library of the most worthy
books in this day of cheap printing may be
had for a trifling sum. There is scarcely a
family in the land that does not spend for
amusement, or in pleasure that could be
dispensed with, a sum each year that would
purchase a suitable course of reading.
- Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of
Salvation, Vol.3, p.206
DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF BAD LITERATURE. A book
may not be classed as bad, but we should ask
ourselves if it contains any thought that
will benefit us intellectually, morally, or
spiritually, if we read it. I do not mean to
say that a book written solely to amuse is
necessarily bad and to be condemned, for
some of our most worthy authors have given
to the world good books of this kind that
can safely be recommended. But if the aim of
a book is not uplifting or helpful to the
reader it should be avoided.
- The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.383
Read in spare time. Numerous leisure hours
have been made available to men. It is
noticeable that many use these extra hours
for fun and pleasure. Certainly an increased
part of it could profitably be used for
gaining knowledge and culture through the
reading of good books.
- The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.386
Literacy offers pleasure. We speak of
literacy and education in terms of being
prepared for a better occupation, but we
cannot underestimate the present pleasure of
our reading in the scriptures, Church
magazines, and good books of every kind.
- Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.321
Successful parents have found that it is not
easy to rear children in an environment
polluted with evil. Therefore, they take
deliberate steps to provide the best of
wholesome influences. Moral principles are
taught. Good books are made available and
read. Television watching is controlled.
Good and uplifting music is provided. But
most important, the scriptures are read and
discussed as a means to help develop
Early in life, these two quotations
regarding books greatly influenced me: Be as
careful of the book you read as of the
company you keep, for your habits and
character will be influenced by the former
as by the latter; and Except a living man
there is nothing so wonderful as good books.
With all my heart, I urge young people to
cultivate the reading habit. But in order
that your reading be of maximum value choose
it as carefully as you do your friends. I
trust that we do so remembering that if we
spend time reading a cheap book, we will be
forced to pass by a choice one. (So Shall Ye
Reap, p. 133.)
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1
Members of the Church are encouraged to take
full advantage of public education
opportunities where available. . . .Without
literacy individuals are
physically, socially and economically.
Education is often not only the key to the
individual member's economic future, but
also to his opportunities for
self-realization, for full Church service
and for contributing to the world around
himspiritually, politically, culturally
and socially (Annual Report, 1971).