When drafting documents for juvenile court that will be distributed to the child and his or her family, it is important to consider the family’s reading abilities — especially that of the child who is the subject of the hearing. For instance, one cannot reasonably expect to defend that a child knowingly and voluntarily waived a constitutional right if the document was written as if the audience were a high school, college, or law school graduate.
Documents that are drafted can be evaluated for readability through a Flesch Reading Ease test and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test. When using Microsoft Word for a PC, the directions are here. For Microsoft Word 2008 for Mac, directions are here.
According to Begin to Read, “85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.”
- Percent of U.S. adults who can’t read — 14%
- Number of U.S. adults who can’t read — 32 million
- Percent of U.s. adults how read below the 5th grade level — 21%
- Percent of prison inmates who can’t read — 63%
- Percent of high school graduates who can’t read — 19%
This blogger was unable to find a readability standard for documents issued by the State of Indiana. An example of such a standard is from Oregon, where the Department of Administrative Services uses a 10th grade reading level. The federal government has issued Federal Plain Language Guidelines, which directs the writer to ascertain the audience and write to that audience’s level.