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The scale of illiteracy is totally unacceptable

Last Thursday, I called on MPs from across Parliament to hold a debate on adult literacy.

For everyone fortunate enough to be able to read this newspaper without any trouble, adult literacy may not seem like a pressing issue. It’s certainly easy to take the ability to read for granted, as we use it without thinking in day-to-day life.

But for the millions of functionally illiterate adults in the UK, the inability to read will define and limit their whole lives. The loss goes far beyond missing out on The News, with everything from bus timetables to medication leaflets remaining off limits.

Now you may think, as I did, that this issue only affects a very small minority. You may even assume that everyone around you can read as you’ve never heard them say otherwise.

In reality, a staggering 1 in 6 UK adults are functionally illiterate.

That could be anyone you know – from a fellow parent at your child’s school, to a friend who always seems to ‘forget their glasses’.

They may be struggling on – trying desperately to hold down a job or manage a household – without that basic skill that every single person in the UK deserves.

This scale of illiteracy is totally unacceptable and it is something our government must tackle.Almost all government departments are affected by, and can affect, adult illiteracy. From education to transport, each one can make a difference if we acknowledge the scale of the problem.

Take the justice department, where the illiteracy rate of 48 per cent among prisoners is no coincidence. The promise to reduce reoffending must go hand in hand with action on illiteracy. It is an injustice that illiterate adults are cut off from so much, whether that’s a rewarding job or the joy of reading your child a bedtime story.

This can be tackled, by the government and charities like Gosport’s Read and Grow, to ensure that this injustice does not continue into another generation.