In Loving Memory of Samuel Bomgard
Effective dyslexia remediation specifically designed for older struggling readers (age 7+).

The Crime Risk of Illiteracy

by Hans J.A. Dekkers

The 2003 NAAL reported significantly different ( = lower) literacy performance by prison inmates as compared to average free Americans.

In 1995, Daniel Karpowitz and Max Kenner reported in their research paper "Education as Crime Prevention" that inside our (USA) prisons, 19% percent of adult inmates are illiterate, and up to 60% are functionally illiterate. In contrast to this, our national adult illiteracy rate stands at 4%, with upto 23% functionally illiterate. Source: Karpowitz and Kenner based themselves on the previous extensive USA nationwide literacy research, namely the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey. The actual figures between the 1992 and 2003 did not change dramatically, but Karpowitz and Kenner expressed the findings in more accessible terms.

The 2003 NAAL findings in more detail

The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) assessed the English literacy of incarcerated adults for the first time since 1992. The assessment was administered to approximately 1,200 inmates (ages 16 and older) in state and federal prisons, as well as to approximately 18,000 adults (ages 16 and older) living in households. The prison sample is representative of the 1,380,000 adults in prison and the household sample is representative of the 221,020,000 adults in households in 2003.

This data is of significance to illustrate the need for literacy, or - expressed as a negative - the profound dangers and cost of failing to making appropriate learn to read education and remediation available to students at a young age.

The 2003 NAAL (page 4) choose to express literacy in four levels:

  • BELOW BASIC (Scores: Prose: 0-209; Document: 0-204; Quantitative: 0-234).
    Adults at the Below Basic level range from being nonliterate in English to having maximum abilities as listed below:
    • Locating easily identifiable information in short, commonplace prose texts;
    • Locating easily identifiable information and following written instructions in simple documents (e.g., charts or forms);
    • Locating numbers and using them to perform simple quantitative operations (primarily addition) when the mathematical information is very concrete and familiar.
  • BASIC (Scores: Prose: 210-264; Document: 205-249; Quantitative: 235-289).
    • Reading and understanding information in short, commonplace prose texts;
    • Reading and understanding information in simple documents;
    • Locating easily identifiable quantitative information and using it to solve simple, one-step problems when the arithmetic operation is specified or easily inferred.
  • INTERMEDIATE (Scores: Prose: 265-339; Document: 250-334; Quantitative: 290-349).
    • Reading and understanding moderately dense, less commonplace prose texts as well as summarizing, making simple inferences, determining cause and effect, and recognizing the author's purpose;
    • Locating information in dense, complex documents and making simple inferences about the information;
    • Locating less familiar quantitative information and using it to solve problems when the arithmetic operation is not specified or easily inferred.
  • PROFICIENT (Scores: Prose: 340-500; Document: 335-500; Quantitative: 350-500).
    • Reading lengthy, complex, abstract prose texts as well as synthesizing information and making complex inferences;
    • Integrating, synthesizing, and analyzing multiple pieces of information located in complex documents;
    • Locating more abstract quantitative information and using it to solve multistep problems when the arithmetic operations are not easily inferred and the problems are more complex.


The NAAL Figure 3-1 (2003 NAAL page 29)shows the results among prison inmates and the average USA household population. The average prison inmate demonstrated BASIC skills in handling prose texts, documents, and quantitative information. The average free American demonstrated INTERMEDIATE skills in handling prose texts and documents, and top level BASIC skills in quantitative information handling.

Across the board (prose, document, and quantitative literacy), the NAAL reported significantly different literacy performance between prison inmates and average free Americans.

Source: 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Download the full report.

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Dynaread has been developed in the trenches of actual remediation, with our feet firmly planted on the ground. Scientific research is essential (and we consistently use it), but we also understand the realities at home and in school. Not all homes have two parents, not all Dad's or Mom's are always home, there is oftentimes no money, schools lack staff or funding. We listen, we observe, we discuss, and we build the best solutions we can for older (ages 7+) struggling readers.

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