I've been focusing mostly on the U.S. so far, but literacy is an important issue throughout the world, particularly for women.
I went searching for literacy in my handy Penguin Atlas of Women in the World: Fourth Edition and found some interesting charts and stats. Right from the start, we learn that two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are women. Based on stats from 2005, there are more than 25 countries in the world where over 51% of women are illiterate. There are also more than 25 countries where "women's illiteracy rate is at least 50% higher than men's" (p. 79). We all know knowledge is power, and the Penguin Atlas reminds us that part of the problem is gender discrimination: men fear losing power if they teach women how to read.