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Adult Education and Family Literacy

Adult education and family literacy are a major focus of Barbara Bush, who established the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 1989. The Foundation was established on the premise that literacy in children begins in the home and that adults who are not able to read to their children at home are unable to foster an environment conducive to learning for the child. In millions of U.S. families, adult education and family literacy must go hand in hand. Over 550 family literacy programs have benefited from The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

In the United States approximately 30 million adults have poor or no reading skills. Studies done by the National Assessment of Education Progress show that children with parents who are functionally illiterate are twice as likely to be functionally illiterate in their adult lives.

In addition to fostering a climate of learning and literacy in their children, adults who take part in adult education and family literacy programs are able to advance in the workplace, earning a higher paycheck and increasing the quality of their families’ lives financially. Studies have shown that family literacy increases by as much as 80% when the adults, who were once functionally illiterate, obtain a GED and subsequently obtain and hold a job.

Programs that promote adult education and family literacy are often staffed by volunteers. Volunteers not only tutor adults in literacy programs, they work in children and adult education classrooms, they read to children and their families, share career advice and expertise with adults and, most importantly, raise awareness of the need for literacy programs in the community. Literacy volunteers also teach parenting skills and mentor young parents and adolescents.

Adult education and family literacy programs take many forms. Many hospital and clinic waiting rooms have pictured and written information on health, hygiene and nutrition. While this information is conveyed without a specific program or direction, it has the potential to effect the literacy level of the families who spend time in these waiting rooms.

Family literacy programs are found in libraries, churches, community centers and jails. While it is expected that libraries will have reading programs for children, many libraries are incorporating family reading into the activities offered, thereby incorporating adult education and family literacy into their reading programs.

Many correctional facilities are incorporating adult education and family literacy into the programs offered to inmates. These programs serve the two-fold purpose of educating the adult and increasing the adult’s parenting skills. While learning to read themselves, the adults have the opportunity to read to their children, increasing the parent-child bond and promoting the literacy of the children.


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