Literacy Levels

Adult literacy is measured the same way all across the state of South Carolina, in six levels. Real life examples of each level are:

Level 1 Literacy Abilities:

  • Locate the name of a dog that was rescued in a news article
  • Work a routine, entry-level job
  • Locate the expiration date on a carton of milk

Level 2 Literacy Abilities:

  • Interpret instructions in a cell phone user guide
  • Locate an intersection on a street map
  • Determine differences in price between costs of two shirts

Level 3 Literacy Abilities:

  • Write a short letter to explain a bank fee error
  • Use a pie chart on your electric bill to determine where you use the most energy
  • Calculate the discount after a sale price on several cans of food at grocery store

Level 4 Literacy Abilities:

  • Explain an argument made in a newspaper article
  • Use a doctor’s schedule to choose the right appointment time to fit into your week
  • Use an eligibility pamphlet to calculate the yearly cost of healthcare

Level 5 Literacy Abilities:

  • Interpret a politician’s view on one issue during a lengthy speech
  • Use information in a table to compare two home mortgages and explain the differences
  • Calculate miles per gallon using information in car manual

Level 6 Literacy Abilities:

  • Write a letter to an editor about a topic researched at the library
  • Explain how to use a new computer at work by reading user manuals
  • Use geometry to build simple structures like a bench or planter

What do literacy levels mean for individual people, families, and society?

Everyone will not earn their GED in the same time frame. Depending on when an adult left school and what they still remember from school, it can take anywhere from two months to a few years to earn a GED. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey (U.S. Department of Education), people with Level one and Level two literacy skills are usually only going to be able to get minimum wage jobs. Also, the unemployment rate is 4 times higher for high school dropouts than for people with a bachelor’s (4 year) degree. Finally, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that over 86,000 adults aged 25 years or older in the Charleston Metro area do not have a high school education or equivalent. That is about 1 in 8 people.

1 in 8

Even if you don’t realize, someone you know, someone you love doesn’t have the education they need to be successful.

Our startling reality of having so many low-literacy adults in the community only exacerbates poverty levels. The Charleston Metro area has more than 115, 000 people who live below the Federal poverty line (the Federal poverty level is defined as a yearly income of only $11, 770). That means 1 in 6 people in our community do not have enough money to live day-to-day. Again, whether you realize it, you likely know someone who struggles every day just to get by.

1 in 6 people

This means our community has to spend a lot of money in public assistance in order to help low-literacy adults live day-to-day. Trident Literacy Association works with low-literacy adults to combat the social inequity they face in our community, to become empowered to break the cycle of low-literacy and poverty not only in their own lives but for their families and in our community.

poverty cycle