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Literacy Changes Lives: The role of literacy in offending behaviour

In September 2008 we published a report, Literacy Changes Lives: An advocacy resource, which brought together research about the relationship between literacy and five areas of a person's life: economic well-being, aspirations, family life, health and civic/cultural engagement. This presented overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship with a person's happiness and success. It gives a clear indication of the dangers of poor literacy and also the benefits of improving literacy for the individual, the community, the workforce and the nation.

One important area that we did not address in that report was the possible relationship between criminal behaviour and literacy. It is frequently claimed that low literacy is related to unemployment, a lack of aspirations, poor physical and mental health, and/or great deprivation, which can lead to crime. Therefore, it is said that literacy is a key part of any crime prevention strategy.

This brief paper examines the link between literacy and offending, and briefly outlines findings from the available research. It shows that the evidence is inconclusive, and suggests areas for further exploration.

Download the discussion piece (pdf): Literacy Changes Lives: The role of literacy in offending behaviour

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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.