This study attempts to capture one critical index of our nation's social health - the literacy of its major cities (population of 250,000 and above). Previous versions of this study focused on five important indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, and educational attainment. The 2005 study introduces a new factor - Internet resources - to better gauge the expansion of literacy to online media.

While other factors - SAT or mastery test scores, for example - can provide useful information, this set of factors presents a more complex and nuanced portrait of our nation's cultural vitality. From this data we can better perceive the extent and quality of the long-term literacy essential to individual economic success, civic participation, and the quality of life in a community and a nation.

Because of the number and complexity of the variables, because of the variety of ways in which the resource data are gathered and presented, and because of the variability in the timeliness of the data, the ranking is necessarily an interpretation.

The value of this study, I believe, lies less in the absolute accuracy of the rank orders and far more in what communities do with the information. It is heartening to see a city like El Paso, which did not rank well on last years edition, launch a city-wide literacy campaign, where, among other community initiatives, Read El Paso Read, distributed some 95,000 books to community members at various events designed to encourage literacy.

Dr. Jack Miller,
Central Connecticut State University