Video report by ITV News Anglia's Elodie Harper
Eleven year olds in the East of England have the third worst reading levels in the country, while among adults, over 11 percent struggled to read and write. In a series of reports, ITV Anglia looks at the work going on to help.
This month children across the region have been celebrating world book day, but for many, the joy of reading remains out of reach.
Last year a third of children in the East left primary school without reaching the standard expected. That's the third worst result in the country.
To tackle the problem, teachers say it's important for families to read together as early as possible.
"I think it's got to start when they're very little, even before they go to school. Parents taking their children to the library, sharing books with them and just talking to their children."
The problem is arguably even more serious after secondary school. A recent OECD report found 16 - 19 year olds in Britain had the lowest literacy rates in all 23 developed nations it studied.
Many higher education courses and universities, such as West Suffolk College, are now including literacy classes to address this.
"High levels of literacy really do improve a young person's job prospects and life chances. So alongside every programme we offer, we ensure we improve their English and Maths skills." >
The college says that improving students' literacy skills provides a huge confidence boost: helping people succeed in other areas too.