FWF President’s Message

What is literacy? Simply put, it’s the ability to read and write. But there is much more to it than that. Literacy is one of the great pillars of civilization, and of civil society as well. Unfortunately, this pillar rests uneasy upon a fractured foundation.

We like to believe that literacy is close to universal in America. In reality, it is far from it. Nationally, only 79% of adults are considered functionally literate. That means roughly one in every five adults is functionally illiterate. In Florida, the figure is just 76.3%, slightly over one in every four. Digging deeper, a whopping 54% read at just a 6th grade or lower level. Staggering numbers, when you think about it.

These situations aren’t abstractions without consequence for the rest of us. The World Literacy Foundation estimates that illiteracy cost the United States over $300 billion in 2022, about 2% of the nation’s GDP. Globally, the loss is estimated at $1.19 trillion.

The causes of illiteracy vary. A small boy’s learning disability goes undiagnosed. A toddler suffers loss of vision or hearing. A family endures survival-level poverty. A little girl’s home life is torn by instability, or a lack or role models, or maybe she lacks a home entirely. A young immigrant cannot speak the language, or has parents unable to speak the language, much less read and write it.

But here’s the good news: because these problems are identifiable, they can be fixed. We don’t have the excuse of tossing our hands into the air and saying there’s nothing we can do. There is always something we can do.

Florida Writers Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, exists through the work of concerned writers and donors united by the mission of making a difference in literacy. FWF has no staff. No payroll. It’s made up entirely of volunteers. Nearly all revenues received are spent in the form of grants awarded to organizations that are out there fighting this good fight to promote and expand literacy in Florida.

We hope you will join us in the fight as well. Monetarily, no donation is too small—and certainly not too large—and is greatly appreciated. But there are other ways to help as well, such as spreading the word, and reaching out to organizations that strive to make a difference in literacy, and urging them to consider applying for grants to do so.

Together, let’s strengthen this pillar of civilization. Let’s get this done.


Ken Pelham
President, Florida Writers Foundation, Inc.