Widespread English Illiteracy: How to End It Now

Janitors have been fired because they cannot read an after-hours note with special clean-up instructions. Families have been evicted from their apartment when the apartment owner falsely claimed that the rental contract allows eviction if a crying baby disturbs other tenants; the evicted tenants do not object fearing their illiteracy will be exposed to friends they have made in their apartment house. The taking of medicines poses a danger to those who cannot read the instructions on the medicine bottles. Children who have medical emergencies face life-and-death situations if their illiterate parents have become lost on the way to the hospital because they cannot read the street signs.

These and hundreds of similar “horror stories” occur all around us every day — most of them without our knowledge because functional illiterates are extremely good at hiding their illiteracy. Illiterates cannot get by in our complex society as well as they should and must constantly endure at least thirty-four different kinds of serious physical, financial, and emotional problems. Many simple tasks we take for granted are impossible for illiterates.

The shocking 1993 report with the title Adult Literacy in America (click here for this report) was the most extensive study of illiteracy ever commissioned by the U.S. government. It was a five-year, $14 million study involving lengthy interviews of 26,049 U.S. adults statistically chosen to represent the entire U.S. population. It grouped interviewees into five groups according to their ability to read. The report shows that the average yearly earnings were: Level 1 (the least literate), $2105; Level 2, $5225; Level 3, $9090, and Levels 4 and 5 combined, $16,311. The threshold poverty level for an individual in 1993 was $7363 per year. Shockingly, 22 percent of U.S. adults were Level 1 and 26.7 percent were Level 2. This indicates that 48.7 percent of U.S. adults had average annual earnings SIGNIFICANTLY below the poverty level, mostly because of their functional illiteracy. We do not see 48.7 percent of U.S. adults in poverty because most households have more than one employed adult and because low-income households receive financial assistance from the government (from our taxes) or from family, friends, and charities.

This report showed that 31.2% of functional illiterates were in poverty. A careful analysis of this report showed that functional illiterates were more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of illiteracy as for all other reasons combined. The report of a 2006 study made by the same group who did the 1993 study showed no significant improvement over the 1993 results. This is also a free internet report (click here).

Benefits of Ending Illiteracy

  • You will benefit emotionally if you are concerned that people you know are — or will be — functionally illiterate.
  • You will benefit if you object to an average personal cost of more than $5186 each year as a result of illiteracy for (1) taxes for government programs that illiterates use and for the truancy, juvenile delinquency, and crime directly related to illiteracy and (2) higher prices for consumer goods due to illiterates in the workplace.
  • You will benefit if you are employed or if you have financial interests in a business or organization in which you invest time or money. Illiteracy affects all organizations to some extent, some of them seriously.
  • You will benefit if our nation improves the trade balance, national relationships, and our national employment by improving communication between nations.

The Solution to Illiteracy

Linguists tell us that Dr. Johnson made a very serious linguistic error in preparing his dictionary in 1755. Instead of freezing the spelling of the sounds of the English language, he froze the spelling of words. Present-day English is thus based upon the spelling of words from the languages of eight nations who occupied the British Isles before 1755. Since that time, we have added words—and usually their spelling in their original language—from another 350 languages to the English vocabulary, according to Henry Hitchings in his book The Secret Life of Words.

Professor Julius Nyikos found that there are at least 1768 ways of spelling forty sounds in English! There is not even one invariable spelling rule in English — some of the exceptions have exceptions! As a result, every word in a person’s vocabulary must be learned, one at a time, either by rote memory or by repeated use.

Unlike any previous proposed spelling system, NuEnglish is scientifically designed to use the spelling of every sound

(1) as it is most often spelled in traditional spelling, as are 82% of the NuEnglish spellings of the sounds,
(2) as people expect a certain sound to be spelled, as in all of the other spellings,
(3) uses a perfect one-to-one ratio of letters-to-sounds, and
(4) shows the syllable with the primary emphasis.

Knowing which syllable is emphasized is important for quick recognition of a word; we do not see the importance of this because we must not only memorize the spelling of words but also the location of the emphasized syllables in traditional spelling. Students of NuEnglish only need to learn the spelling of 38 sounds instead of all 20,000 or more words in their reading vocabulary. Some readers have reading vocabularies of more than t70,000 words. NuEnglish is so simple that present readers of English can learn NuEnglish spelling in less than ten minutes. Prove it to yourself: click here to see the NuEnglish spelling system.

Adoption of NuEnglish will enable 500 to 600 million of people around the world who speak English but cannot read it very well — over 93 million in the U.S. alone — to be able to learn to read English in less than three months. Without adoption of NuEnglish, based upon present statistics, less than two percent of U.S. adult illiterates will ever become fluent readers.

Consider these facts about spelling reform:

  • Dozens of scholars for over 250 years have recommended it.
  • At least thirty-three nations, smaller and larger than the U.S., both advanced and third-world, have simplified their spelling.
  • A simpler spelling system has been proven effective for making learning to read easier in more than 300 alphabetic languages — but never tried in English. In 295 languages (at least 98% of them) students become fluent readers in less than three months. Most of the approximately 51 percent of U.S. adults who become functionally literate require two to four YEARS.
  • All reasonable objections to spelling reform have been thoroughly debunked by several distinguished linguists and educators.
  • The need is greater than ever in our increasingly complex world, but it has never been tried in English.

Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis (LEOLC), Revised Edition, was published in mid-2009 by American University & Colleges Press. LEOLC was entered in the education category of two major book award competitions, each with over 1000 total entrants, and was one of six finalists in one competition and one of eight finalists in the other. By applying the proposals in LEOLC, we can definitely and permanently end functional illiteracy. We can make it happen!

Professor of Special Education at Eastern New Mexico University, Michael F. Shaughnessy, Ph.D. read LEOLC and emailed the author, “I agree with you 100%!” Carefully, honestly read all of this amazing book and you will too. Get your copy now from Amazon.com.

About bcenglis

Bob Cleckler is a retired Chemical Engineer. In 1985 he read Jonathan Kozol's shocking new book, "Illiterate America." He decided to use his research skills as an engineer to see if there was a solution to the problem. He spent more than a year in his research. He read EVERY book he could find on the subject of his research. He read dozens of books from the large Marriott Research Library at the University of Utah. Based upon his findings, he developed a solution to the problem of English illiteracy. It is a PROVEN solution. Dr. Frank Laubach spent his entire adult life teaching adult illiterates around the world how to read in more than 300 alphabetic languages. Dr. Laubach proved that he could teach students, in 98% of the languages in which he taught, to read fluently in less than three months. His books, "Teaching the World to Read" and "Forty Years With the Silent Billion," never mention being unable to teach ANY of his students to read fluently.

Cleckler collaborated with Gary Sprunk, M.S. English Linguistics, to perfect his solution based upon Dr. Laubach's experience and findings. Two non-profit educational corporations were formed. Cleckler is the CEO of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and Vice Pres. of R & D of NuEnglish, Inc. Gray Sprunk is President of NuEnglish, Inc. Cleckler's award-winning book, "Let's End Our Literacy Crisis," originally published in 2005 is now available on our website, http://LearnToReadNow.org, without cost or obligation for the Second Revision, released in late 2012. This breakthrough book covers:

A. the tremendous need for improving English literacy. Cleckler found research proving (1) that 48.7% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate, defined as being unable to hold an above-poverty-level-wage job, (2) that 31.2% of these functional illiterates are in poverty, and (3) that they are more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of their illiteracy as for all other causes combined. Furthermore he found at least 34 types of serious physical, mental, emotional, medical, and financial problems that illiterates must endure every day of their lives that we would consider a crisis if we had to endure them. Cleckler also found that illiteracy costs EVERY U.S. adult -- readers and non-readers -- an average of more than $5,000 each year for government programs that illiterates use; for truancy, juvenile delinquency, and crime directly related to illiteracy; and for the higher cost of consumer goods due to illiterates in the labor pool and in the workforce.

B. the causes of illiteracy. Before any problem can be solved, you must find the cause. Otherwise you can spend huge amounts of money fighting the symptoms of the problem without preventing the problem from recurring.

C. the preferred, proven solution to the problem. We have been fighting the symptoms of the difficulty in learning to read English for almost a century. Although numerous changes in American education have been implemented in the last century, none of them solve the foundational cause of the problem. Almost half of U.S. students never become fluent readers, and most of the ones who do become fluent readers require at least two years to learn to read well enough to continue increasing their reading skills after third grade, when most reading instruction in school ends.


  1. CRB says:

    Who is bcenglis?

    • bcenglis says:

      bcenglis is Bob C. Cleckler, B.S.Ch.E., retired Chemical Engineer, author of Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, presently available for no cost or obligation in its second revision on my website, http://LearnToReadNow.org, and four other published books on ending our shockingly widespread English functional illiteracy.

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