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Talking about Illiteracy

Nearly 8% of adults in Utah County are illiterate. That’s about 1 in 12.

How do I tell if one of my clients is illiterate?

  • Do they ask you to fill out forms for them, or make a lot of mistakes when they fill them out themselves?
  • Do they bring a friend to help with the forms?
  • Do they take forms home to fill out?
  • Do they make excuses for not reading brochures or written explanations of services: “I forgot my glasses.” “I have a headache.” or “I don’t have time”?
  • Do they repeatedly ask you to explain what they have just read?
  • Do their eyes fail to move left to right while “reading”?
  • Do they fail to respond to mailed notices, bills, etc.?
  • Do they ask you to call rather than mail information to them?
  • Do they continuously forget appointments?
  • Do they turn down opportunities that require reading and/or writing?

How do I bring up the subject of reading with someone I think is illiterate?

Most adults who are illiterate feel a lot of shame and embarrassment about their struggles with reading and writing. They develop coping methods to hide their challenges, and many feel that they will never be able to change. The best thing you can do when talking to someone about illiteracy is to be understanding and encouraging. No one ever chooses to become illiterate, and illiteracy is rarely a reflection of intelligence.