Libraries Transform: Adult Education and Family Literacy

For Immediate Release
Fri, 09/25/2015


Kristin Lahurd

Literacy Officer

Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services

CHICAGO – As we mark national Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, libraries across the country are transforming lives through literacy services for adults and families. The need is great. In the U.S. low literacy is a reality for one in six adults, while one in 10 speaks limited English, and nearly 30 million adults lack a high school diploma. Whether native or foreign born, these Americans struggle not only with low literacy and its associated issues—worse health outcomes, lower wages and higher unemployment—but also with challenges to accessing services. At the same time, a parent’s literacy has direct implications for children: The number one predictor of a child’s success in school is the mother’s reading ability. With committed staff and volunteers, libraries are helping to meet these myriad needs through their adult and family literacy services.

With a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services and ProLiteracy are working with three public libraries to pilot online training and supporting resources that will better equip libraries to serve adult learners. The three pilot sites are the City of Santa Monica Public Library in Santa Monica, California, Rawlings Pueblo City-County Library in Pueblo, Colorado and Halifax County Library System in Halifax, North Carolina. With support that includes an advisory group of adult literacy leaders, the libraries will launch new initiatives by putting into practice priorities outlined in Adult Literacy through Libraries: an Action Agenda, a previous project of ProLiteracy, ALA and Onondaga County Public Library.

Ardmore Public Library, in Ardmore, Oklahoma, has leveraged the Ardmore Literacy Initiative, led by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, to expand access to literacy and English language services in their community.  A key player in the initiative, the library has helped create—and serves as a training center for—the Ardmore Literacy Leadership, an organization of nine local nonprofits. With support from Dollar General and ALA, Ardmore Public Library created a state-of-the-art computer lab that serves adult learners through a TechConnect literacy series, while also offering a wealth of new programming for adults and families, including bilingual story time, online English Language Learner (ELL) instruction and courses in citizenship and GED preparation.

At Zion-Benton Public Library in Zion, Illinois, an “ELL Parents University” serves adult immigrants and their children by addressing multiple literacies. In technology literacy sessions, parents are introduced to the same technology equipment that their children use at school. Other sessions promote health and financial literacy, including mental and physical wellbeing and basic personal finances. At a Literacy CAFÉ, participants practice their English reading and conversation skills through discussion of "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros. Zion-Benton’s work is supported by a grant from the American Dream starts @ your library program, administered by the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services and generously funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

As we celebrate Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, and the House and Senate resolutions recognizing it, we laud the work of these and countless other libraries working year round in the service of literacy for adult learners and families.

To view the resolutions:



About the American Library Association Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, providing association information, news, events, and advocacy resources for members, librarians, and library users. The Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services supports equity and inclusion as fundamental values of the association. Initiatives undertaken by the office help ensure the inclusion of diverse perspectives within the library profession and advocate for equitable access to library services for all.