If you are reading this post you are among the 86% of Americans who are functionally literate. In an earlier post, we explored how poor readers weakened their communities. To get a better idea of the problem, let’s explore how excellent readers build strong communities.

From 2010 to 2014, Washington topped the “Most Literate City Study” conducted by Central Connecticut State University. During the 1990s, prior to being named as the most literate city, Washington was once the murder capital of the United States. The study revealed that although murders peaked at 479 in 1991, by 2012, the city’s murder rate was reduced to 88. It appears that as the city’s population became more literate, the murder rate reduced.

Aside from the reduced crime rate, the city’s GDP increased dramatically over the years. Between 2009 and 2012, Washington was listed in the Top 10 Metro Areas recording a GDP growth of 11.4%. Please note that this growth occurred during the years when the city’s literacy rate improved. These and other statistics lead me to conclude that excellent readers actually do have a dynamic impact on their communities.

There are other benefits to a literate community that statistics may or may not have measured. For instance, excellent readers are often confident people and confident people pursue their goals, dreams and ambitions. Additionally, strong readers have been shown to be more engaged citizens, and the stronger the citizens, the better communities respond to society’s changing needs.

We can agree that we want our community’s youth to become excellent readers. However, excellence doesn’t happen overnight. If we are serious about boosting reading skills, we must be good role models and provide year-round access to books. Additionally, we must find ways to increase their motivation to read.

A society is only as strong as its weakest members and if we want to strengthen the fabric of our communities we have to start from the ground up by ensuring that our youth have a solid reading foundation. How can we do this? By becoming engaged in the literacy delivery process on a formal and informal basis.

Do the civic and social organizations of which you are affiliated have or support a youth literacy outreach initiative?