The solution to illiteracy lies in creating a culture that esteems reading and promotes functional reading skills from an early age. Studies by the Heritage Institute indicate that illiteracy is not the result of poverty, but of cultural factors that limit students' access to learning opportunities and lower reading aptitude expectations.
The Heritage Foundation states that lax reading standards are a major determinant of illiteracy in the United States. When children are surrounded by adults who belittle the importance of reading and have low educational expectations, they have limited progress in their literacy. On the other hand, children whose parents commonly read at home and whose teachers emphasize reading proficiency for academic advancement tend to achieve functional literacy even when they are born into conditions of poverty. Thus, the fundamental action for improving literacy is instilling it at the social level. The Heritage Foundation asserts that this is ultimately more effective than expensive but ill-planned government programs.
UNESCO explains that in some countries, political conditions prevent the formation of the reading culture and educational resources necessary to prevent illiteracy. War, for instance, drafts many youth in developing countries into the military. These youth never have the opportunity to learn to read, and they perpetuate a culture of illiteracy among their families as adults. In these cases, UNESCO advocates the use of culture-specific television programming for teaching phonics.