5 Ways to Improve Adult Literacy

Student reading textbook in adult education classroom

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Adult literacy is a global problem. In September of 2015, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reported that 85% of the world's adults age 15 and older lack basic reading and writing skills. That's 757 million adults, and two-thirds of them are women.

For passionate readers, this is unimaginable. UNESCO had a goal to reduce illiteracy rates by 50% in 15 years compared to 2000 levels. The organization reports that only 39% of countries will reach that goal. In some countries, illiteracy has actually increased. The new literacy target? "By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy."

What can you do to help? Here are five ways you can help improve adult literacy in your own community.

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Educate Yourself

Student in library on computer

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Start by researching some of the online resources available to you and then share them on social media or anywhere else you think they will help. Some are comprehensive directories that can guide you in finding help in your own community.

Three good options include:

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Volunteer at Your Local Literacy Council

two woman reviewing and learning

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Even some of the smallest communities are served by a county literacy council. Get out the phone book or check at your local library. Your local literacy council is there to help adults learn to read, do math, or learn a new language, anything literacy and numeracy related. They can also help children keep up with reading in school. Staff members are trained and reliable. Participate by becoming a volunteer or by explaining the services to someone you know who might benefit from them.

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Find Your Local Adult Education Classes for Someone Who Needs Them

Computer Class adults

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Your literacy council will have information about adult education classes in your area. If they don't, or you don't have a literacy council, search online or ask at your library. If your own county doesn't offer adult education classes, which would be surprising, check the next closest county, or your state education department. Every state has one.

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Ask for Reading Primers at Your Local Library

Teaching Adults

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Never underestimate the power of your local county library to help you accomplish just about anything. They love books. They adore reading. They will do their best to spread the joy of picking up a book. They also know that people cannot be productive employees if they don't know how to read. They've got resources available and can recommend special books to help you help a friend learn to read. Books on beginning readers are sometimes called primers (pronounced primmer). Some are designed especially for adults to avoid the embarrassment of having to learn by reading children's books. Learn about all of the resources available to you. The library is an excellent place to start.

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Hire a Private Tutor

Professor with digital tablet helping adult education student in classroom

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It can be very embarrassing for an adult to admit that he or she cannot read or work simple calculations. If the thought of attending adult education classes freaks someone out, private tutors are always available. Your literacy council or library are probably your best places to find a trained tutor who will respect the student's privacy and anonymity. What a wonderful gift to give someone who won't otherwise seek help.