Top 10 U.S. Literacy Rate Statistics
- Nationwide, on average, 79% of U.S. adults are literate in 2022. 21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2022.
- 54% of adults have a literacy below sixth-grade level.
- 21% of Americans 18 and older are illiterate in 2022.
- Low literacy rates end up costing Americans up to $2.2 trillion every year.
- 34% of the people 18 and older with low literacy proficiency weren't born in the United States.
- The state with the highest rate of child literacy is Massachusetts, with over 80% of kids there having good proficiency in reading.
- New Mexico has the lowest literacy rate for children, with over 30% of the state's children being illiterate.
- New Hampshire has the most people 18 and older that are literate, with over 90% of them knowing how to read and write.
- California has the lowest literacy rate in the country, with 23% of them having little to no proficiency in reading skills.
- Throughout the US, there were 66% of children in the fourth grade couldn't read well in 2013.
Average Reading Level In The U.S.
The average American reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level, according to The Literacy Project.
Read More:Reading Statistics
Child Literacy Statistics
- Based on research conducted, the reading scores for the majority of kids between the fourth and eighth grades were higher in 2017 than the scores made in 1992, though not higher than the scores two years prior.
- The gap in performance between specific ethnic groups, like black and white students from white and Hispanics, was lowered between the years 1992 and 2017, but not too drastically from 2015 to 2017.
- The average eighth-grade girl scored 10 points more than the eighth-grade boys did in reading exams in 2017.
- Students in the fourth grade improved their reading by 5 points from 1992 to 2017, with eighth-grade kids improving theirs by 7 points from the same period.
- The best three states with the lowest child literacy rates are Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Hampshire.
- States with the highest rates of child literacy are Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico.
- Throughout the United States, 68% of fourth-grade students in 2013 could read with proficiency, a 6% boost since 2003.
Child Literacy Rates by State (4th Grade)
|State||Rank (lower is better)||Students Not Reading Proficiently (%)||Lower Income Students Not Reading Proficiently (%)||Higher Income Students Not Reading Proficiently (%)||Improvement since 2003 (%)|
|District of Columbia||45||77||87||39||14|
Adult Literacy Statistics
- The literacy rate for Americans aged 18 and older is 88%.
- From 2012 to 2017, a survey conducted with 12,330 adult participants aged between 16 and 74 had a mean score of 264 out of 500 on a literacy test. There were participants from every state and county within the total that took the exam.
- Literacy rates in the US correlate with the number of immigrants residing in a specific state, whether or not they're legal or illegal. States with large numbers of legal and illegal immigrants have a 60% greater chance of illiteracy rates being above 20% for the adult population.
Adult Literacy Rate and PIACC Score Estimate by State
|State||Literacy Rate (%)||Literacy Rank||PIACC Estimate||PIACC Rank|
|District of Columbia||n/a||n/a||277||4|
Literacy Rate By Country
If you're looking for a chart to show you the countries with the highest literacy rates, look below:
|Holy See||100.0 %|
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea||100.0 %|
|Russian Federation||100.0 %|
|Republic of Moldova||99.0 %|
|Czech Republic||99.0 %|
|New Zealand||99.0 %|
|United Kingdom||99.0 %|
|Antigua and Barbuda||99.0 %|
|Trinidad and Tobago||99.0 %|
|Micronesia (Federated States of)||99.0 %|
|Marshall Islands||98.0 %|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||98.0 %|
|Republic of Korea||98.0 %|
|The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia||98.0 %|
|Costa Rica||97.0 %|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||97.0 %|
|Brunei Darussalam||96.0 %|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||96.0 %|
|San Marino||96.0 %|
|Cook Islands||95.0 %|
|State of Palestine||95.0 %|
|Equatorial Guinea||95.0 %|
|Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)||95.0 %|
|Saudi Arabia||94.0 %|
|Viet Nam||94.0 %|
|South Africa||93.0 %|
|Bolivia (Plurinational State of)||92.0 %|
|Sri Lanka||91.0 %|
|United Arab Emirates||90.0 %|
|Dominican Republic||90.0 %|
|Saint Lucia||90.0 %|
|United States||86.0 %|
|Syrian Arab Republic||86.0 %|
|Cabo Verde||85.0 %|
|El Salvador||84.0 %|
|Iran (Islamic Republic of)||84.0 %|
|Solomon Islands||77.0 %|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||75.0 %|
|Lao People's Democratic Republic||73.0 %|
|Sao Tome and Principe||70.0 %|
|United Republic of Tanzania||68.0 %|
|Papua New Guinea||63.0 %|
|Sierra Leone||46.0 %|
|Côte d'Ivoire||41.0 %|
|Central African Republic||37.0 %|
|Burkina Faso||29.0 %|
|South Sudan||27.0 %|
- A literacy rate that stays close to 100% is seen in quite a few other countries of the world, including Azerbaijan and Cuba.
- 86% of the world's population that's 15 years old and above is literate.
- Of all the nations of the world, over 95% of them have citizens with literary skills that are rudimentary, a near-contemporary achievement.
- Countries with a literacy rate below 30% include Niger, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan.
- North Korea has one of the highest rates of literacy in the world, near or at 100% of the total population with proficiency in reading.
- In 2018, Uzbekistan recorded a literacy rate of 99.99% of the population with reading skills.
- 99.97% of the Ukrainian population could read, according to estimates made in 2012.
- In San Marino, 99.92% of the population could read, based on a 2018 estimate.
- Latvia recorded a 99.89% literacy rate in 2018, placing it in the top 10 countries with the best reading proficiencies in the world.
- In 2016, Chad was the least literate country in the world, with just 22.31% of the population knowing how to read.
- In 2014, Guinea had a 32% literacy rate, one of the world's lowest.
- Mali showed a literacy rate of 35.47% in 2018.
- Afghanistan had a literacy rate of 43.02% in 2018, though significantly better than in years past.
- Central African Republic has a literacy rate of 37.40% placing it in the top ten lowest in the world.
Literacy Rate By State
List of literacy rates by state:
- New Hampshire – 88.50%
- Alaska – 87.30%
- Vermont – 87.20%
- Minnesota – 86.90%
- Montana – 86.90%
- Maine – 86.60%
- North Dakota – 86.60%
- Wyoming – 86.40%
- Utah – 85.50%
- Iowa – 85.10%
- South Dakota – 85.10%
- Wisconsin – 84.70%
- Hawaii – 84.10%
- Washington – 83.90%
- Idaho – 83.60%
- Nebraska – 83.60%
- Colorado – 83.40%
- Oregon – 83.20%
- Kansas – 83.10%
- Connecticut – 82.80%
- Massachusetts – 82.70%
- Michigan – 82.40%
- Ohio – 82.30%
- Pennsylvania – 81.90%
- Indiana – 81.30%
- Virginia – 81.20%
- Missouri – 81.10%
- Maryland – 80%
- Oklahoma – 79.90%
- Delaware – 79.70%
- Illinois – 79.60%
- Rhode Island – 79.60%
- New Jersey – 79.30%
- West Virginia – 79.10%
- North Carolina – 78.70%
- Tennessee – 78.30%
- Kentucky – 78.10%
- District of Columbia – 77.70%
- South Carolina – 77.60%
- Arkansas – 76.90%
- Arizona – 76.60%
- Georgia – 76.40%
- Florida – 76.30%
- Alabama – 76.10%
- New York – 75.60%
- Nevada – 74.70%
- Louisiana – 72.90%
- Mississippi – 72%
- Texas – 71.80%
- California – 71.60%
- New Mexico – 70.90%
Literacy Statistics By State
- New Hampshire has 5.8 of adults that lack basic proficiency in reading, placing the state ahead of the rest with a 94.2% literacy rate.
- 36.6% of adults living in New Hampshire possess a graduate-level degree or higher, which is the 7th highest rate in the nation.
- 60.8% of New Hampshire residents are registered at a local library.
- Minnesota has a literacy rate of 94%, the nation's second highest.
- 6% of adults in Minnesota lack basic skills for reading and writing, though 69.9% of all state residents are registered users at a library.
- North Dakota has a literacy rate of 93.7% making it the nation's 3rd highest.
- California has the lowest literacy rate in America, with 23.1% of adults having inadequate reading proficiency.
- The state of New York has the second lowest literacy rate, with 22.1% of the population having poor reading abilities. Still, New York has 35.7% of adults with a Bachelor's degree, the country's 9th highest.
- 19.7% of Florida's adult population have low reading skills, the third lowest rate of literacy rate in the nation.
- According to researchers, 4 out of 5 Americans 18 and over possess medium to high proficiency in English reading and writing.
- 1 out of 5 American adults, or 21%, possess low literacy skills, comprising about 43 million people.
Literacy Rate By Gender
- Since 2020, 90% of men and 83% of women in the world are literate.
- In 2019, 90.07% of the world's male population was literate, while 83.02% of women were.
- In 2017, men that could read and write accounted for 89.% of the population, with women making up 82.64% with reading abilities.
Literacy Rate By Age
Globally, 86.3% is the literacy rate for people 15 years of age and older.
Literacy Rate By Race
- About 77% of the African American population has moderate to high reading and writing proficiency in the United States.
- 66% of the Hispanic population has medium to high literacy in America, with 65% of whites having moderate to high literacy.
What is the US reading level average? ›
Here's what we know: Half of U.S. adults can't read a book written at the 8th-grade level, according to the OECD. The average American reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level, according to The Literacy Project.Do 54% of Americans read below 6th grade level? ›
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of adults in the United States have prose literacy below the 6th-grade level.Do 54% of adults have a literacy below 6th grade level? ›
130 million Americans—54% of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 years old—lack proficiency in literacy, essentially reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Often, counties with the lowest literacy rates are the same areas that experience poor health, poverty, and low economic mobility.What is the average literacy score? ›
(Correction: Central Connecticut State University has released a corrected version of the rankings. The U.S. moves up from 11th to 7th.) A new world ranking of countries and their literacy rates puts the United States at 7th.What is 54 of American reading level? ›
21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2023. 54% of adults have a literacy below 6th grade level. Low levels of literacy costs the US up to 2.2 trillion per year.Why is US literacy so low? ›
Patterson said adult literacy program attendance nationally has decreased over the past two decades due to lack of funding and public schools pushing for more students to graduate high school.What is the reading level of most 5th graders? ›
Your average reader in Grade 5 will fall between 565L and 910L, though there will be readers who fall below the average, and others who are reading at a more advanced level.What is considered a low literacy rate? ›
Developed nations almost always have an adult literacy rate of 96% or better. In contrast, the least developed nations manage an average literacy rate of only 65%.What is considered low literacy? ›
People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet.
How do you calculate literacy level? ›
Calculated with the number of people aged 15 to 24 years who are literate divided by the total population in the same age group Based on National population census, household and/or labour force surveys.What is the average reading level in the world? ›
The global literacy rate currently stands at 87%, up from 12% in 1820. Most developed countries have achieved a 99% literacy rate. But as this Statista graph shows, strong regional inequalities remain.What are the 5 levels of literacy? ›
The five stages of literacy development include emergent literacy, alphabetic fluency, words and patterns, intermediate reading, and advanced reading.What is the average reading level for an 8th grader? ›
5th Grade: 40-50. 6th Grade: 50-60. 7th & 8th Grade: 60-80.What is the lowest literacy rate in the US? ›
The state of New Mexico has the lowest literacy rate in the United States, with a rate of 70.9%. It is estimated that about 800,000 adults in New Mexico lack basic prose literacy skills.What is the average reading level for a 7th grader? ›
In the 7th grade, studies using a national sample of students have shown that typically readers will score at a Lexile level between 735L and 1065L over the course of the year. Growth of around 69L is generally achievable for 7th graders should students be progressing at around 1.3L per week.What is the average reading level of a 12 year old? ›
Teens in grades 7 through 12 can read between 115 words per minute and 185 words per minute. College-aged adults can read between 200 and 300 words, while adults have an average reading rate of 200 words and 250 words per minute. This speed declines steadily with age.What reading level is Harry Potter? ›
The Harry Potter book series is Middle Grade, not YA (Young Adult). This means it is generally written for children ages 8-12 and grade levels 3-7.Does America have a literacy problem? ›
The U.S. reading crisis is 20 years in the making; 130 million read below 6th grade level. While those in education understand the current state of the nation's literacy crisis, most everyday Americans are dangerously unaware.Why is illiteracy so high in the US? ›
Illiteracy is connected to unemployment and low-paying jobs
Many Americans lack the literacy skills to fill out a job application. One in 5 adults struggle to read basic sentences and fill out forms, according to the Barbara Bush Foundation.
What level should a 4th grader be reading at? ›
The average 4th grader will have a Lexile score of 445L to 810L. However, this is true for around 50% of students, with around 25% being below the average, while the other 25% are likely to be above the average. The same study showcased that students can be up to 250L above or below the average.What is the average 2nd grade reading level? ›
Range of Typical reading Levels in Second Grade
In the fall, second graders typically independently read at a Level 18. By the end of second grade, a typical second grader will independently read at Level 28.
In the fall, kindergarteners typically independently read at a Level A. By the end of kindergarten, a typical student will independently read at Level 4. It is important to note that some students may have DRA scores that are above or below the grade-level expectation.What are the 4 types of literacy? ›
- Reading and Writing. Traditional definitions of literacy usually refer to the ability to read and write. ...
- Digital Literacy. ...
- Financial Literacy. ...
- Cultural Literacy.
Decades of underinvestment in schools, culture battles over bilingual education, and dizzying levels of income inequality have pushed California to the bottom of the pile, making it the least literate state in the nation. Nearly 1 in 4 people over the age of 15 lack the skills to decipher the words in this sentence.What are the 3 types of literacy? ›
There are 3 Literacy Skills within the 21st-century skills framework, these are Information Literacy, Media Literacy and Technology Literacy.What country has the highest average reading level? ›
Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has a literacy rate of 99.83%. In the Czech Republic, schools are not state-funded until elementary school. This is mandatory for all students until the age of fifteen when students can choose to pursue higher education, vocational school, military training, or cease formal schooling.What is level 3 of literacy? ›
Level 3: Adults are required to read and navigate dense, lengthy or complex texts. Level 4: Adults can integrate, interpret or synthesise information from complex or lengthy texts.What does high literacy rate mean? ›
It can be also used as a proxy instrument to see the effectiveness of education system; a high literacy rate suggests the capacity of an education system to provide a large population with opportunities to acquire literacy skills.What are the levels of readers? ›
Children go through four distinct stages of reading development: emergent reading, early reading, transitional reading, and fluent reading. Although the order of the stages remains the same, children progress through these stages at different rates.
What Lexile level is 12th grade? ›
Texts required for many postsecondary pursuits fall within a Lexile range of 1200L to 1400L, while the text complexity of typical high school textbooks for grades 11 and 12 is about 1050L to 1165L.What is the average 9th grade reading level? ›
According to national studies, the typical 9th grader should score on Lexile between 855L and 1165L over the course of the year.What is the average reading level for a freshman? ›
According to this report, the average incoming college Freshman reads at a mere seventh-grade level, despite K-12 “Common Core Standards” developed by the U.S. Government in 2009 to bolster college and career preparation.What percentage of students read below grade level? ›
Sixty five percent of all U.S. fourth graders scored “below proficient,” which means that they are not reading at grade level.What reading level should you be in 6th grade? ›
In the 6th grade, higher performers should be looking to achieve Lexile scores of around 1000L by the end of the year, with the average scores being over 665L. Yearly growth in the 6th grade falls under 100L typically, with expected growth at 1.7L per week.How many people can read above a 6th grade level? ›
How many adults aren't able to read above an eighth grade level? An estimated 63 million adults read between a sixth and eighth grade level. Just 11% of men and 12% of women make the grade as proficient readers.How much should a 6th grader read? ›
|Grade||Silent Rate WPM|
The average reading rates for kids in grades 1-6 are between 80 and 185 words per minute (wpm). Teens have an average reading speed of 195 to 204 wpm. For college-aged adults, the average reading speed is between 200 and 300 words per minute.How well do students read in the US? ›
The average reading score for 4th-grade students in 2019 (220) was lower than the score in 2017 (222), but it was higher than the score in 1992 (217). For 8th-grade students, the reading score in 2019 (263) was lower than the score in 2017 (267), but it was higher than the score in 1992 (260).Are 66% of students in the United States not reading at a proficient level? ›
In the first data release from the National Assessment of Educational Progress since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 2022 findings reveal that more than two-thirds (68%) of U.S. fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, up from 66% in 2019.
What should a 7th grade reading level? ›
4th Grade: 38-40. 5th Grade: 40-50. 6th Grade: 50-60. 7th & 8th Grade: 60-80.What is considered a high reading level? ›
The higher the Lexile measure, the higher the student's reading level. The reader's Lexile Framework works in intervals of five with 5L being the lowest. The highest possible measure is 2000L. Anything below 5L is assessed as a BR or Beginning Reader.What is the average reading level of a high schooler? ›
A compilation of the top 40 books teens in grades 9-12 are reading in school shows that the average reading level of that list is 5.3 -- barely above the fifth grade. "A fifth-grade reading level is obviously not high enough for college-level reading.What grade do most kids read? ›
Experts say that most children learn to read by age 6 or 7, meaning first or second grade, and that some learn much earlier.How much does the average 11 year old read? ›
|Grade Level and Age||Words-Per-Minute|
|4th Grade (Spring) 9-10 years old||123 – 180 wpm|
|5h Grade (Spring) 10-11 years old||139 – 194 wpm|
|6th-8th Grade (Spring) 11, 12, 13, 14 years old||150 – 204 wpm|
|Highschool 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old||200 – 300 wpm|
3. The majority of children don't spend enough time reading outside of school. According to teachers, students should be reading between 15 minutes and 1 hour a day outside of school (85% of teachers expect daily reading in this range), but most of their students are reading less than the 15-minute daily minimum.