New England led the world in educational facilities and literacy at mid 19th-century. 95% of it's adults could read and write. 3/4 of the children age 5-19 were enrolled in school for an average of six months a year. The rest of the North was not far behind. The South lagged with only 80% of it's white population literate and one third enrolled for an average of three months a year. However even counting slaves who about one in ten could read, nearly 4/5 of the American population could read compared to 2/3 in Britian and northwest Europe and 1/4 in southern and eastern Europe. Counting only the free population the literacy rate of 90% in the United States was equaled only by Sweden and Denmark.
Albert Fishlow, "The Common School Revival: Fact or Fancy?"
Carl F. Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic: Common Schooling and American Society, 1780-1860.
Lee Soltow and Edward Stevens, The Rise of Literacy and the Common Scool in the United States.