About half of Detroit can't read

America's public education system is failing the citizens of Detroit, where the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund reports that 47% of people in Detroit are illiterate. In nearby suburbs, up to one-third are functionally illiterate.

The report, titled "Addressing Detroit's Basic Skills Crisis" makes the problem seem as intractible as the Flint water crisis that is about to hit its third anniversary.

Director Karen Tyler-Ruiz described that level of illiteracy to WWJ: "Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks."


Various estimates of the scale of need for basic skills services in the region convey a crisis-level order of magnitude.

• The National Institute for Literacy estimates that 47% of adults (more than 200,000 individuals) in the City of Detroit are functionally illiterate, referring to the inability of an individual to use reading, speaking, writing, and computational skills in everyday life situations.

• We also know that of the 200,000 adults who are functionally illiterate, approximately half have a high school diploma or GED, so this issue cannot be solely addressed by a focus on adult high-school completion.

• The remaining 100,000 of these functionally illiterate adults (age 25 and older) lack a high school diploma or GED, another prerequisite for employment success. While these numbers are less severe for the region as a whole, the region at-large is far from immune to this issue. Within the tricounty region, there are a number of municipalities with illiteracy rates rivaling Detroit: Southfield at 24%, Warren at 17%, Inkster at 34%, Pontiac at 34%.

The report offers suggestions for triage as well as long-term solutions.

Addressing Detroit's Basic Skills Crisis

Image: Detroit School by Nitram242

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