Reading First project


The National Institute in Literacy reports that currently, 32 million Americans can not read. That is almost 14% of the adult population. More than 21% of adults read below a 5th grade level and a full 19% of high school graduates can’t read. These figures shocked me! At first I didn’t believe them. Figures on the internet so often get over-inflated to make one point or another. But, the more I researched it, the more I realized that the first numbers I saw were actually on the conservative side. When you look at the prison population, as many as 70% of the inmates can’t read above a 4th grade level.

And the numbers haven’t changed in more than 10 years.


What can design do to help the problem? How do you even communicate to those who cannot read without using words? Those were the challenges in this project.

The primary focus of the program was the visual system. A strong logo and symbols were worked into it to try and communicate as simply as possible. I focused on two major messages that I wanted to transmit to my audience. The first is that reading is a valuable skill. The second is that it is still within the reach of anyone that wants to learn.


For that, I turned to stories. Short, simple stories that audience members can relate to. Short stories that help them see just what reading skills could do for them. The end results were a series of posters, videos and a website that focused on helping the illiterate know where to find help.