Poverty is a root cause of low literacy, and low literacy is related to negative outcomes including increased education costs, higher crime rates, poorer overall health, and a higher rate of dependence on public subsidized programs. 


Texas children under the age of 18
live in poverty.


70%  of inmates in American prisons cannot read above a 4th grade level.


74%  of children in greater Houston are considered "economically disadvantaged."


38%  of Houston children 5 years old and younger live in poverty.


43%  of adults with the lowest level of literacy skills live in poverty, compared to only 4% of those with the highest levels of literacy skill.

1 in 4  Houston adults live in poverty.


Education is central for an individual to earn a living wage, for families to break the cycle of poverty, and for a city to have a strong workforce and vibrant economy.

Of the 75 most populous cities in the United States,

Houston was recently ranked


with #75 being the

least literate.

Texas ranks

50th  among states in percentage of adult population with a high school education. 26,000 to 42,000 Texas adults were on waiting lists for Adult Basic Education in 2012.


$70,000,000  is spent annually on developmental math, reading and writing courses by Houston’s colleges and universities.


75%  of future high-growth, high-demand jobs in the Houston/Gulf Coast area will require the minimum of an associate’s degree.


50%  of students who begin community college do not remain to graduate.


1 in 4  Houston adults has not earned a high school diploma, GED or equivalent.

In 2013,

Texas adults were eligible for adult education programs. Federal funds served 91,906 students, or

of that need.


It is clear that when children enter kindergarten possessing requisite socio-emotional and cognitive skills, including pre-literacy skills, they are more likely to be successful in their academic career. Having a strong early childhood system from birth through pre-kindergarten when a child’s brain is developing most rapidly is paramount to ensuring every child is school-ready and is positioned for success.

60% of Houston area children enter kindergarten each year lacking requisite readiness standards for learning how to read.

The pre-kindergarten system in Texas only meets

2 out of 10

quality standards, ranking

28th nationally

in pre-kindergarten funding levels

The state of Texas only requires

24 hours of training
and a high school diploma for licensed childcare workers.

In 2007,

of poor children ages three to six were able to recognize all

26 letters of the alphabet,

compared with 35% living above the poverty level. For the same year, 46% of poor children were
able to write their name, compared with 64% of their more affluent peers.


A lack of investment in early childhood leads to negative outcomes. Worldwide, the link between malnutrition and learning development shows a

22% loss in adult income.


Research shows that for every


invested in early childhood education and pre-kindergarten programs, society and the taxpayers receive

$16 in benefits.


Third grade is a critical milestone in a child’s education, during which they are expected to transition from learning how to read to reading to learn.  Research indicates that reading below expected third grade levels is highly correlated to future academic challenges, as well as dropout, incarceration and poverty rates.

Hispanic and African-American third graders in the greater Houston area were

2 times more likely
to perform unsatisfactorily on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading assessment in 2013.


Economically disadvantaged children in the greater Houston area were

2 times more likely
to perform unsatisfactorily on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading assessment in 2013.

Children who do not read on level by the end of Grade 3 have only a

1 in 8 chance
of ever catching up and are 4 times more likely to drop out of school.

1 in 4  third graders in the greater Houston area scored unsatisfactorily on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading assessment in 2013.


Among poor students who were proficient readers in the third grade,

11% nationally
fail to finish high school.

Home Learning Environments

A high-quality home learning environment is paramount for developing strong emergent literacy skills among young children and fostering love of reading as children grow.

Economically disadvantaged children hear

30,000,000 fewer words by age 3

than their more affluent peers.

This is called the “30 million word gap.”

90%  of kids ages 6 to 17 say they are more likely to finish a book they have picked out themselves. In addition, having books in the home is a more significant factor than family income in determining whether a child will be frequent reader.

Children and teenagers who read for pleasure on a daily or weekly basis

score better
on reading and writing tests than infrequent or non-readers.


1 book is available for every 300 children in low-income areas as compared to

an average of 12 books  in homes of their more affluent peers.


Having books in the home results in children

reading more often and for longer lengths

of time.

Chronic Absenteeism

Attending school on a regular basis is critical for children to meet academic standards and stay on track for graduation. Research is evident that student attendance is related to academic performance, especially for economically disadvantaged children and English Language Learners.  Reducing chronic absenteeism is a key strategy for improving literacy rates and success of children.

Of the over 25,000 HISD students who took 2015 STAAR English exams, students who

missed fewer than 18 days of school
were twice as likely to pass than chronically absent students.


9.3%  or over 20,000 Houston Independent School District children are chronically absent during any given school year. 86% of these students hailed from low-income families. 98% of chronically absent pre-kindergarten children are economically disadvantaged.


Students who attended grades 3 to 8 regularly

scored up to 20%
higher on the Texas STAAR Reading test than their chronically absent peers.

All students, regardless of race or ethnicity, are proven to achieve at higher standardized test levels when they attend school regularly.


A global crisis exists with far too many people living a life with low literacy skills. It is a problem that must be systemically addressed and become a higher priority to ensure social and economic prosperity for all.

Worldwide, there are over

75,000,000 people

aged 15 years and older who

cannot read or write a simple sentence.

Two-thirds of them are female.


As of January 2014,

of American adults ages 18 and up read at least one book in the past year.

Women are more likely than men to have read a book in the previous

12 months
and those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to have done so as well. In addition, blacks are more likely to have read a book than Hispanics.