Being able to read and write is something most of us take for granted, but 17 percent of New Jerseyans struggle with literacy, experts say.

Elizabeth Gloeggler, the chief executive officer of Literacy New Jersey, said many of these people are from other countries — but there are also thousands of American-born Jersey residents who have some degree of difficulty with reading, writing or both.

She said a lot of students who come to Literacy New Jersey for help “have trouble reading all sorts of things including things you and I would read every day and take for granted, like a menu, like a note that might come home from a teacher from school.”

According to Gloeggler, Literacy New Jersey helped 5,700 students last year, and 20 to 30 percent of them were born and raised in the United States.

So why are they struggling with literacy?

“Some people drop out of school at some point. Someone might be behind in their reading and then at one point it catches up with them,” she said. “But some people finish school and are still struggling with their literacy skills.”

She pointed out when an adult has trouble with reading, that person's child doesn’t have exposure to books and magazines.

“What happens is that young child comes to school already behind the 8 ball, and so it just keeps going from there,” she said.

Gloeggler pointed out many individuals who struggle with literacy try to hide it.

“We have students who ask us to match them up a couple of towns over from where they live because they’re scared if someone they knew saw them, that would be really upsetting to them,” she said. “We had a student once who used to tell his kids, 'I want you to read me the paper every morning so you’re learning about current events,' and his children never know their father could not read.”

She said her organization recruits and trains volunteers from all over New Jersey, and will then work with students who need help with literacy.

“We do a lot of groups and small groups. All of it happens in public places. For the most part, libraries are one of our best partners.”

She said if people want to help as tutors or get help to improve their reading and writing skills, they can visit or call 732-906-5456.

She said the goal of her organization is to make sure that adults in New Jersey "have the skills that they need to be able to do all the amazing things they want to be able to do.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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