Up until a few years ago, Joseph Buford was one of those statistics.
"It was so easy for everybody else and it was hard for me," said Buford, who is now 67 years old.
For more than 60 years, Buford hid what he felt like was a shameful secret.
"You feel left out," Buford told Nashville's News 2, "You feel kind of useless. It affects everything you do."
Despite graduating from high school, Buford could not read.
"It was constantly on my mind," he said. "Because it was really embarrassing and I didn't want anyone else to find it out."
Buford said out of necessity, he became great at hiding his problem, even hiding it from his wife.
"One day, she handed me something and told me to read it, and that's when I knew she knew," said Buford, wiping away tears, "That's when I asked her if she wanted to leave me she could. That's the way I felt about it."
Buford's wife didn't leave him and along with friends, encouraged him to get help.
Meg Nugent, the executive director of the Nashville Adult Literacy Council said, "It affects everything. It's going to keep people more in poverty. It's going to cause health problems, because people can't read preventative stuff. It definitely dictates what kind of job they're going to get and what kind of income they're going to have."
Nugent said, like Buford, these one out of eight adults can't read addresses, directions on a prescription or menu items at a restaurant.
In recent years, Nugent said, demand for their free service has increased.
"I think because of the economy, people that were forced out of jobs come to us to help them improve their job situation, get a new job or get a promotion," said Nugent, "We've seen very high waiting lists in the past couple years and we always need volunteer tutors, it's a large need."
Currently, there are 130 people on the waiting list at the NALC.
Thanks to a volunteer, Buford's journey has had life changing impact.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Buford about his decision to get help, "I was going to give it six months, and then I started picking up things, and I said, ‘I'll give it a year.'"
Now, nearly six years later, Buford said he's enjoying reading anything and everything, from junk mail to home repair manuals and books about different parts of the world.
"It felt like a weight being raised off of me," Buford said about his newfound skill, "I wish I had done it at an earlier age, when my girls were younger."
Founded in 1982, the NALC has trained thousands of volunteers to teach reading, who in turn, have taught thousands of adults to read.
Last year, the NALC served 1,800 learners with 600 volunteer tutors.
If you'd like to volunteer, you can call the NALC at 615-298-8060, or visit their Web site.