BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Literacy rates in Louisiana are among the lowest in the country. Sixteen percent of adults cannot read above a sixth-grade level. One local woman whose family were sharecroppers said as a kid she never learned to read.

“When you can read, you can open another world up,” said Jean Smith, a Baton Rouge resident.

Louisiana is among the top ten states in the country with the lowest literacy rates. Over 16 percent of adults in the state cannot read above a sixth-grade level, and even more are limited to a 4th-grade level.

“Part of it’s cultural and it’s kind of carried over,” said Gary Robertson, the executive director for Adult Literacy Advocates.

“When you are not able to read, you know, you’re going to have the worst jobs. You always feel like you’re going without, you’re missing so much and you are missing much,” said one person who wished to remain anonymous.

Smith said as a child working to help provide for her family and kids, reading wasn’t a priority.

“I raised my children, I used to work three jobs just to pay for me and the children to have a place. And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t get an education but one thing I am going to do, I am going to learn how to read,'” she said.

Smith said she’s grown tired of always having to ask for help. At 77, she has made it her mission to get her GED.

“I want everybody to see me. I want my grandkids to see me. Look at mama, my grandmother out there trying to get her education,” she said.

While those who are learning to read later in life continue to improve their literacy skills, they want to make sure the next generations do not have to struggle.

Smith had one piece of advice: “Stay in school. The bus comes and picks you up, why are you not in school?”

Local organizations with literacy resources:

The State Library- Adult Literacy Resources

  • 701 North 4th Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
  • Phone: (225) 342-4913

Adult Literacy Advocates 

  • 7732 Goodwood Boulevard, Suite 111, Baton Rouge, LA 70806
  • Phone: (225) 383-1090

Baton Rouge Community College- Adult Education

  • 3250 N Acadian Thruway E, Baton Rouge, La. 70805, Room C 165
  • Phone: 225.421.3903