I wrote a case statement for ProLiteracy, based in Syracuse, New York, to help fund its mission to build literacy skills among adults.
The Case for ProLiteracy
Imagine seeing these words, but being unable to comprehend their meaning. Now picture the parent, the employee, the citizen you might be if you were among the 13 percent of the world’s adults who have not yet learned to read, write, or use technology beyond its lowest, most rudimentary levels. For 776 million illiterate adults worldwide—two-thirds of them women—this is not a matter of imagination. For them, these images evoke a stark, everyday reality. Illiteracy imposes fundamental, far-reaching limitations on virtually every aspect of their lives.
Most people acquire literacy skills as children, but in the average American public schoolroom of 30 students, despite the best efforts of their teachers and nearly always through no fault of their own, four fall behind and do not catch up before leaving school. In some cultures, longstanding traditions, political upheaval, and scarce resources effectively deny some children—often girls—the chance to learn. While many illiterate adults develop extraordinary coping skills and compensate admirably, many others find it difficult to function competently and contribute meaningfully to society. They may struggle to earn a living and feed their families. They may be abused, exploited, or deprived of even the most basic of human rights. Within their communities, the greater the proportion of illiterate adults, the more severe and persistent the socioeconomic problems.
But for those who get the help they need to acquire and maintain literacy skills, the transformations can be truly amazing. Typically, literate adults are able to take better care of their children, enjoy better health, and live longer. They become more readily employable and, therefore, less likely to need public assistance. They are instilled with a new sense of hope and confidence. Their new skills enable them to learn more, and to continue learning and growing in whatever directions they choose for the rest of their lives.
Promoting Powerful, Promising, Lasting Change
With a lack of basic literacy skills widely acknowledged as a root cause of so many personal and societal problems, promoting adult literacy is overwhelmingly cited as a most powerful and promising means of instituting real and lasting societal change. As a champion of adult literacy, ProLiteracy supports dedicated, like-minded organizations and individuals the world over as they seek to foster that change.
ProLiteracy exists because the art and science of teaching adults, and the tools and technical assistance needed to support their learning, require specialized expertise and resources beyond the means of many grassroots or community-based literacy and adult education programs. Through ongoing collaboration, training, publishing, credentialing, and advocacy, we assist thousands of front-line workers in delivering adult literacy instruction more efficiently and effectively than they could deliver it on their own.
Community-based adult literacy and basic education programs improve lives, solve problems, and make a profound difference on a very practical level. By learning from our members’ and partners’ many successes, and by sharing generously our accumulated wisdom, tools, and technical expertise, ProLiteracy aims to help make those programs and initiatives even more beneficial and effective.
Doing More, Doing Better
In 2002, organizations founded by two of literacy’s most dedicated and respected pioneers, Dr. Frank C. Laubach and Ruth Johnson Colvin, merged to form ProLiteracy. Today, we stand at the center of a vibrant global network of adult literacy initiatives, comprised of more than 1,200 domestic members and international partners spanning the globe. Despite a broad diversity in language, ethnicity, and cultural backgrounds, we succeed together through our shared commitment to promote adult literacy skills for the advancement of all.
Based on research and practical field application, ProLiteracy strives to define current best practices and proactively disseminate the most effective and advanced methods of teaching adults essential life skills. We share all we know about how to recruit, nurture, and develop volunteers and professional staff, and how their programs and community projects can best be organized and operated. Our experience in the adult literacy field lends the authority necessary to influence literacy-related issues and outcomes the world over. As advocates, we serve as the eyes, ears, and voices of people who, by definition, are the least able to advocate effectively for themselves.
A Vision for the Future
ProLiteracy’s worldwide network is a potent force working every day to transform lives through the power of literacy. Leaders and policymakers throughout the world are hearing the case for adult literacy persistently stated in our clear, strong, and reasonable voice. The many and varied programs and initiatives now benefiting from our support work exceedingly well, and as a result, our organization is thriving. Demand for our services is growing exponentially.
Although ProLiteracy has helped hundreds of thousands adults become literate, they remain woefully outnumbered by those we have yet to reach, and every day the gap is widening. Even as demand for services accelerates, resources are dwindling, with programs being called upon to do even more with much less. Waiting lists are long and growing longer, and despair threatens to take hold. In many places, hope is in danger of dimming.
Despite the broadening scope and growing urgency of the need, ProLiteracy remains steadfastly focused on its vision of a world in which any adult can readily access the teaching and tools necessary to become literate. As long as the need for literacy instruction remains unfulfilled, we consider ourselves not only mission-bound, but morally obliged to press forward with our work.
A Partner for Change
ProLiteracy invites you to join us in our purpose—to transform lives by championing the cause of adult literacy. Only you can determine how many individual lives, families, and communities we can touch, and how quickly we can reach them. By supporting ProLiteracy, you help further positive and lasting change in the lives of adult learners that will, ultimately, have a profound impact well beyond the communities and nations in which they live—an impact that serves as testament to the power of your gift. We sincerely believe you can choose no worthier cause to champion than literacy, and no worthier champion of literacy to support than ProLiteracy.
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