How Advanced is the Reading Level on Your Juvenile Forms?

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.”

The U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Literacy gathered literacy data for adults in 1992 and 2003.  From a summary of that data:

  • 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 Guidelineswhich directs the writer to ascertain the audience and write to that audience’s level.

This entry was posted in Adolescent Development, Court Proceedings, Education, School-to-Prison Pipeline, Schools/Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How Advanced is the Reading Level on Your Juvenile Forms?

  1. TeamChild worked with other good juvenile justice stakeholders on a good report about juveniles, plea colloquies, and suggested plain language to use with the kids. Here is the WA State report. Thanks for this great blog!

    http://www.modelsforchange.net/publications/343

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