According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million adults in the U.S. demonstrate a below basic reading level, but what does that mean for the state of West Virginia?

According to the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County, one in five adults within the county can not read above a fourth grade level, and findings from the West Virginia Library Commission suggest that trend can be found statewide.

 “I had a third grade reading level until I was about 21,” said Dwayne Johnson.

Johnson, who is a student with the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County, is learning in his adulthood what many learn in grade school. Johnson is learning how to read. 

“At the latest count, we know one in five adults in Marion County do not read above the fourth grade level,” said Kay Nesselrotte, director of Literacy Volunteers of Marion County.

The startling statistic joins a handful of other counties in the state with low adult literacy levels, but the question is why?

The Literacy Volunteers of Monongalia and Preston Counties website indicates that 20 percent of West Virginians that struggle with low literacy levels could possibly be caused by a lack of resources in some of the states’ rural areas. The group also suggests the disconnect could possibly be attributed to a history of some families having to choose between working in the coal mining field or getting an education.

Johnson explained to WBOY that his literacy skills fell short for other reasons.

“They put me in special ed classes when I was in the third grade,” Johnson said. “I was embarrassed about it. so I became a class clown. I didn’t know better as a child that I was suppose to ask questions and really get help.”

Under the volunteer groups’ direction, Johnson has surpassed even his expectations throughout the last seven months.

“The Literacy Volunteers of Marion County is a tutoring service, which is free to adults and children. We teach reading, math, writing and English as a second language,” Nesselrotte said.

Ultimately, this literacy group is helping rewrite the states statistics, one word, one sentence and one person at a time.

“They aren’t stuck in a hole. There is a future for them,” said Johnson’s teacher, Pam Shanholtz.  

To find literacy classes near you, please visit the National Literacy Directory’s website at

To reach the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County, you can reach them directly at 304-366-6055 or visit their website,