Almost half of the adults in New Mexico can’t read.
According to the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, 46 percent of New Mexico adults are functionally illiterate. Of those, 20 percent have literacy skills at the lowest level, meaning, for example, they would have difficulty extracting simple information from a news article. Another 26 percent are at the second level, where their skills are a little higher, but not enough to get a job that requires reading.
That’s simply awful.
It may be some consolation that New Mexico is not alone in having a massive illiteracy problem. According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, the entire country is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world and now ranks about 17th in literacy.
But none of this is good news, and, as usual, New Mexico is a little worse than most other states.
A unique perspective on the issue comes from New Mexico’s most famous literacy activist, poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, who spoke recently to the literacy coalition’s annual meeting. Literacy isn’t just about reading, he said. “Literacy is about human beings being able to express their emotions to the people they love.”