Behavioral Science and Adult Literacy: Becoming Part of the Solution

Robert N. Sollod


The adult illiteracy problem in the United States has deep historical, social, economic, political and psychological roots.  The level of illiteracy in The United Staes is a serious problem for the society as a whole and is connected with issues such as delinquency, poverty and unemployment.  Illiterate adults have multiple significant problems associated with their inability to read.  Behavioral scientists and professionals, along with the remainder of United States society, have largely ignored the problem of adult illiteracy.  A number of steps for behavioral scientists to take to help remedy this situation are presented.  These include introducing literacy programs within mental health settings, augmenting existing literacy programs with empowerment modules, enabling current programs to be more accessible to the illiterate, facilitating employment of th illiterate by identifying and measuring their job-relevant competencies, and developing college courses which involve tutoring illiterate adults.  Additional activities and areas of research to which behavioral science expertise could contribute are also suggested.

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