One in six adults has lower literacy than the level expected of an 11-year-old, new research shows today.
It finds that only half of children enjoy reading, and that a quarter do not recognise any link between reading and success.
The report, Literacy: State of the Nation is the first coherent, national picture of reading and writing abilities, according to the National Literacy Trust.
It conducted a study of more than 17,000 pupils from 112 schools. Most read e-mails, blogs and websites more frequently than books, the survey suggests. However children who engage in technology are more likely to enjoy writing than their classmates.
While literacy levels have risen among 11-year-olds in the past decade, they have plateaued in writing. Yet three-quarters of parents said their child often read for pleasure.
The report also analysed reading and writing in the workplace, and found widespread concerns.
Almost seven in ten retail firms and half of manufacturing companies reported problems with literacy among staff.
Nearly two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women with very low literacy skills had never received a promotion, it found.
Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said the findings were “extremely worrying”.
“We believe this should be of great concern to all political parties as reading for pleasure helps to develop strong literacy skills and ultimately, supports academic and future success,” he said.
“The Treasury estimated the cider tax will bring in £30 million. For just a tenth of this money the Government could establish which adults are most in need of literacy support and run a year-long campaign to support children and adults who are struggling with literacy.
“It is estimated that poor literacy costs the economy £2.5bn a year.”