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Literacy and Diversity in St. Louis, Missouri

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Did you know the following statistics?

In 1992, the National Assessment of Adult Literacy conducted a survey to test literacy in adults (age 16 or over).  Their findings showed:

  • 29% of adults in St. Louis City lacked basic literacy skills compared to 8% in St. Louis County.

In 2003, a new survey was conducted to mark changes for the same demographic group. These findings showed a marked change in literacy levels in the Metropolitan area:

  • In 2003, 13% of adults (-16% change) in St. Louis City lacked basic literacy skills.
  • 6% of adults (-2% change) in St. Louis County lacked basic literacy skills.

The test findings do include people who cannot complete the test due to language barriers, a significant problem in St. Louis City as we have a growing immigrant population.

On the South Side, where I grew up, there was a strong Italian community called “The Hill”.  Over the next twenty years, there was an influx of immigrants to the South Side who spoke Vietnamese, Bosnian, Arabic, Spanish, etc.

These immigrants have established a dining community on Grand South Grand that is a great stretch of road to get a wide selection of ethnic foods.

Tower Grove Park is a refreshing oasis on Grand

Tower Grove Park is a refreshing oasis on Grand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is also a festival each summer by the International Institute of St. Louis in Tower Grove Park (see right) called the “Festival of Nations” that celebrates the cultural diversity of the South Side.  You may have heard me mention it.

As we continue to focus on literacy in our schools, we need to reach out to the parents of these children who may not be able to read English or speak much of it.  Teaching ESL (english as a foreign/second language) needs to remain a high priority in the St. Louis area, and other areas where there are immigrants moving in.

Celebrities with backgrounds in education, such as J.K. Rowling who was a ESL teacher in Portugal for a year, should use their platforms to draw more attention and support for this issue.


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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has seventeen years of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). Lauren is the Managing Web Editor and writer for The Scribe, a web publication of the St. Louis Writers Guild, where she also serves as their Director of Communications. She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at LaurenJoanMiller.com.

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