January 30, 2012

What Do You Mean by "Most Literate"?

Central Connecticut State University recently released the America's Most Literate Cities (AMLC), 2011 study. Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the AMLC study looks at the largest U.S. cities (population 250,000 and above) and ranks them according to six indicators: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

I enjoyed scrolling through the rankings, which could be divided according to each category. Austin ranks  #22.5 for 2011 – sharing the ranking spot with NYC, no less! Not so bad, according to AMLC.

However, as I continued to scroll through the AMLC list, some skepticism arose. Cleveland, OH was ranked as the #13 most literate city in the U.S.  In this study, Cleveland’s ranking is justified by the city’s “great library systems and strong newspaper/magazine circulations”.  

So, literate= presence of resources?

Why then, according to the Center on Urban Poverty and Social Change, are 69% of Cleveland residents functionally illiterate?

While the AMLC study examines the presence of literacy resources as an indicator for a literate city, it does little to address the disconnect between the presence of high resources and the unchanging low literacy rates in far too many U.S. cities.  

More than the presence of certain resources, we must also consider specifics about the quality and availability of these resources to individuals who are low literate.  Furthermore, we must continue to recognize the ways in which low-literacy is connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States.

Granted, a comprehensive assessment of literacy is no easy task, but one we must continue to tackle at all levels.  

Have you identified ways in which the quality and availability literacy services are connected to your organizational mission?

What are the primary resources in Austin that we can capitalize on by improving quality and accessibility of services?

The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas (LCCT) published a snapshot assessment in 2010 to assess current adult literacy need and community organizational capacities to provide services in Central Texas. Click here to view the publication via our website for more information.

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