Literacy is crucial to not only the wellbeing of residents in Houston and the surrounding Harris County, but is an important factor in student success, political engagement and the overall economy:

  • One in three Harris County adults are functionally illiterate, meaning they lack basic reading, writing, speaking, language and computer skills needed to work or go to school, according to a June report by the City of Houston and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.
  • Black and Hispanic adults in Harris County are three times more likely than white adults to have low literacy kills, according to a 2017 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.
  • According to new research by Gallup, Harris County’s economy could grow by $13 billion if adults with the lowest levels of literacy competency increased their literacy skills by just one level.
  • The 2013 “Houston’s Literacy Crisis: A Blueprint for Community Action” noted that 50 percent of children who enter kindergarten are prepared with the basic literacy skills they need.
  • A 2015 Pew Research Center study showed that while the average American read 12 books a year, white people read around 13, and Black and Hispanic people read eight.


  • A New York Times’ analysis of more than 7,000 English-language fiction books published between 1950 and 2018 showed that 95 percent of the authors were white.
  • Of around 3,300 children’s books received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2020:
    • 12 percent were about Black characters; 8 percent were by Black authors
    • less than 2 percent were about Indigenous characters; 1 percent were by Indigenous authors
    • 10 percent were about Asian characters; 12 percent were by Asian authors
    • 6 percent were about Latinx characters; 7 percent were by Latinx authors
    • less than 1 percent were about Pacific Islanders or Arab characters; less than 1 were by Pacific Islander and or Arab authors