Promoting Global Literacy: Learn to Read for Adults
Functional illiteracy means an individual can only demonstrate simple reading and writing; their reading, writing and math skills are not enough to navigate jobs, marketplaces or health care. Illiterate adults have limited opportunities and understanding of society.
Adult illiteracy affects individual adults, their families and their communities. UNESCO estimates that 773 million adults are illiterate worldwide; most of these adults are women.1 Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have higher illiteracy rates than the rest of the world. Countries like Chad, Guinea, South Sudan, Burkina Faso and Afghanistan have the lowest literacy rates worldwide.2 However, illiteracy is also prevalent in developed countries like Canada and the United States.
Supporting programs that help teach people how to learn to read, for adults especially, provides crucial help to communities worldwide.
Many adults are functionally illiterate because they did not have sufficient opportunities and support to attend school regularly or complete their education. The opportunity for people to learn to read, for adults especially, creates invaluable opportunities.
There are numerous barriers to literacy. Some include:
Lack of opportunity
Millions of children worldwide experience poverty, which affects all areas of a child’s life, including their education. When they become adults, they are unable to read and write. It is a cycle often passed down to their children as well. Families experiencing dire poverty often do not have the money to pay for the necessary supplies to send their children to school. The financial strain to feed, educate and care for their children can be just too much. Many impoverished families must choose between sending their children to school and paying rent or buying food.
- Child marriage — To improve a family’s financial situation, many girls become child brides. Child marriage effectively stops a girl’s opportunities to attend school because child brides are typically responsible for cooking, cleaning, maintaining their homes and eventually, caring for their children.
- Child labor — Many families need their children to work alongside them in fields, factories and farms to supplement their income. The International Labour Office estimates that 32% of child laborers no longer attend school.3 Child laborers may work 12-15 hours a day doing back-breaking labor; they do not have the energy, attention or time to attend school consistently. Thus, long hours of hazardous work prevent many children from consistently attending school or even completing their education.
Some people experience being functionally illiterate even if they receive adequate schooling. Children may inconsistently attend school due to personal illness or injury, their family moving or even child labor. Children also may not consistently go to school because their parents do not value education.
Parents with limited or no school background are less likely to value education and send their children to school. Undereducated parents cannot help their children read, write or complete their homework. Without an incentive to attend school, children will find other ways to spend their time. Children who inconsistently attend school can fall behind on core relational and educational skills.
Why should we educate adults? Why is literacy beneficial?
Programs that help teach participants how to learn to read, for adults especially, promote help and hope for many families. UNESCO states that,
“The ‘multiplier effect’ of literacy empowers people, enables them to participate fully in society and contributes to improving livelihoods. Literacy is also a driver for sustainable development in that it enables greater participation in the labour market; improved child and family health and nutrition; reduces poverty and expands life opportunities.”1
Literate adults can make informed decisions about their health, finances and future. Educated adults can also qualify for higher-paying jobs to provide crucial financial support for their families; education can help break cycles of poverty.
Simple things like the opportunity to learn how to read and spell, for adults especially, can help provide assistance and hope to entire families. Reading and writing are crucial skills for daily tasks like reading road signs, medical and governmental forms, job or housing applications and government policies. Literate adults can protect themselves from exploitation in bad trades, unfair prices or dishonest paperwork.
For decades, GFA World has provided an adult literacy program in Asia and Africa to support families and teach parents life-changing skills. GFA missionaries teach adults phonetics, letter-writing and sound combinations. Illiteracy remedies like GFA’s classes empower adults to read, write and do basic math. Literacy skills help adults navigate daily life, read medical and governmental paperwork and support their children in school. Literacy skills open up new job and career opportunities and build hope in individuals and families. Adult literacy classes spread Christ’s love to lift individuals and families out of poverty and change communities for the better.
Your generosity can impact individuals, their families and their communities. Please consider giving to provide adult literacy classes today!Learn more about numeracy definition
1 “Literacy.” UNESCO. Accessed 26 February 2022. http://uis.unesco.org/en/topic/literacy#:~:text=Despite%20the%20steady%20rise%20in,most%20of%20whom%20are%20women.
2 “Literacy Rate by Country 2022.” World Population Review. Accessed 26 February 2022. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/literacy-rate-by-country.
3 “Global Estimates of Child Labour.”International Labour Organization. 2016. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf.