The Library of Congress National Book Festival is taking place this weekend, and participating is a great way to observe Adult Education and Family Literacy Week.
According to the Festival information page, more than 120 authors, poets, and illustrators will be participating on nine virtual stages:
Family, Food & Field
History & Biography sponsored by Wells Fargo
Poetry & Prose sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts
Understanding Our World
Author presentation videos for children and teens will be released at 9 AM ET on Friday, September 25, and will be available on demand via the Festival platform, Library website and YouTube. All author presentation videos on other stages will launch at 9 AM ET on the next day, Saturday, September 26. For a complete line-up of authors and their video presentations, please see the complete video on demand list.
From Friday through Sunday, September 25-27, we will feature interactive live Q&A sessions with select authors to complement their presentation videos. We list them in the schedule under “Live Events by Stage” and “Live Events by Day.”
AEFL Week raises public awareness about the need for and value of adult education and family literacy. Its goal is to increase financial and societal support for access to basic education programs for U.S. adults with low literacy, numeracy, and digital skills. Advocates across the country use this opportunity to elevate adult education and family literacy nationwide with policymakers, the media, and the community.
What are some ways to participate this week?
Start with toolkits and other resources for planning advocacy around AEFL week
Host an online event to raise awareness of adult education and family literacy
What about next week, next month, next spring?
AEFL Week is also a great opportunity to plan out your advocacy strategy for the next 6 months or more.
Who are your federal and state legislators? What are their positions on adult education, family literacy, digital equity? Plan out a schedule for when you will contact them over the next few months and what you will say.
What information about literacy and numeracy levels in your specific community or locale can you obtain from the PIAAC Skills Map? How can you use that information to explain the importance of adult education?
What information about digital access in your community can you obtain from the National Broadband Map? How can you use that information to support your points about digital literacy and digital inclusion?
What are some of the strengths and successes of your program and your adult learners? How can you use those to illustrate the value (and return on investment) of adult education?
This AEFL Week, take the opportunity to become a more informed, more creative, and more persistent advocate. And let us know how we can help!
National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week was established when the National Coalition for Literacy worked with Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-PA) and then-Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) to create a Congressionally-recognized designation that would draw attention to the importance of adult education and family literacy. Since then, NCL has sponsored AEFL Week in September each year on behalf of its members and the field as a whole, and has worked with Members of Congress to have the week recognized through resolutions in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Our world is rich and diverse with about 7,000 living languages. These languages are instruments for communication, engagement in lifelong learning, and participation in society and the world of work. They are also closely linked with distinctive identities, cultures, worldviews, and knowledge systems. Embracing linguistic diversity in education and literacy development is therefore a key part of developing inclusive societies that respect “diversity” and “difference,” upholding human dignity.”
Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO Message on the occasion of International Literacy Day
NCL has made the 2020 Census its priority issue for
2019-2020. Why? Because, as our members know, an accurate and fair count is
essential for adult learners, the programs that serve them, and the communities
where they live and work.
Census population counts determine how Congressional districts are drawn, and thus how populations are represented. Businesses use Census data to guide decisions about where to build facilities that can provide jobs. And, according to the Census Bureau, Census data “help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and communities every year.” That funding supports hospitals, housing programs, fire departments, food and nutrition programs, road construction … and adult education, through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA, Title II of WIOA).
Why do adult
learners need a particular focus?
NCL’s goal in focusing
it work on the 2020 Census is to ensure as full a count as possible of adult
learners and their families and codependents. Many of these residents fall into
one or more of the groups that the Census Bureau has identified as “hard to
count” (and therefore at risk of an undercount). “Hard to count” populations
include low-income households, foreign-born persons, people of color, rural
residents, and young children.
An undercount of these populations could result in reduced resource allocations and reduced political representation for their communities. By educating adult learners about the 2020 Census and encouraging them to complete it and to share information in their communities, adult education programs can support a full and fair count of the population groups their learners represent. In addition, as trusted institutions, adult education programs and libraries are well positioned to reach the communities they serve with accurate, timely information about the nature and significance of the Census and guidance that helps adults with limited literacy or English language skills avoid Census-related scams and fraud that may target them.
What are the challenges?
For 2020, the
Census Bureau has made changes to its procedures for supporting Census
completion. These changes are likely to have negative effects on response rates
for adults with limited reading and digital literacy skills:
The Bureau is emphasizing online response. In most cases, the initial mailing will invite recipients to respond online. Those who lack online access or have limited digital skills will need support to follow up online, and guidance to understand that they can also respond on paper or by phone.
The Bureau will not provide instructional materials specifically for use in adult education programs. While the Bureau plans to release educational materials for K-12 students through its Statistics in Schools program, it has no plans to develop materials geared to adult learners as it did in 2000 and 2010. Adult educators will be on their own to adapt or create activities and materials that help their learners understand and respond to the Census and avoid potential Census-related fraud and scams.
In addition, because the Bureau does not yet have an established budget for fiscal 2020, it has had to limit its plans to provide face-to-face support for Census completion. In prior Census years, the Bureau provided for Questionnaire Assistance Centers at libraries and community centers. The American Library Association described the importance of QACs in a February 2019 letter to Bureau Director Steven Dillingham:
hosted more than 6,000 Questionnaire Assistance Centers and Be Counted sites in
the 2010 Census … Libraries offer ideal locations for Questionnaire Assistance
Centers in many hard-to-count communities: 99% of Census tracts with the lowest
self-response rates in 2010 are located within five miles of a public library. Furthermore,
many residents with lower Internet connectivity or skills will turn to their
local library to access the new Internet Self-Response option, and 98% of
tracts with poor Internet access are located within five miles of a public
However, for 2020 the Bureau may not be able to support QACs, given the current uncertainties about its funding for fiscal 2020. Because the Senate will not begin work on the 2020 budget until it reconvenes on September 10, passage of the final budget is not likely to happen before fiscal 2020 begins on October 1. As a result, Congress will need to pass a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open until a final budget is passed. The challenge this presents for the Census Bureau is outlined in a case memo developed by the Census Task Force:
“Most FY 2020 appropriations bills will not be finalized until later in the fall (at best), well after the October 1 start date to the fiscal year. … The Census Bureau needs to know at the start of the fiscal year how much money it will have for the entire year, so it knows what efforts it can afford to undertake. Without funding certainty at the start of the year, the Census Bureau could decide it must curtail certain important activities — from outreach and advertising to cyber-security steps to hiring a full complement of census field staff — to prevent a funding shortfall later in the fiscal year.”
You can act at both the individual and the programmatic level.
1. Advocate: Email or call your Senators and
Representatives to promote inclusion in the Continuing Resolution of a full year funding anomaly for the 2020 Census
of $7.5 billion, as part of Periodic Censuses and Programs account funding of
This is the stakeholder-recommended funding level that was included in the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 3055) that the House passed earlier this year. This funding anomaly, if passed, will allow the Census Bureau to plan for the full year of activities and carry out activities that ensure a fair and accurate count. For more information, read the case memo developed by the Leadership Conference’s Census Task Force and share it as part of your advocacy.
2. Participate: Become informed about how the Census is administered, who is counted, what questions are asked (and not asked), how the Census Bureau maintains information confidentiality, and more. Use Census Bureau fact sheets and infographics for information. Plan to complete the Census yourself. Here is the Census Bureau’s timeline for 2020:
3. Educate: Understand your adult learners’ concerns about the Census and preferred response method (online, paper, phone, in person). Use the NCL Census resource list to plan ways to incorporate relevant digital literacy skills and content-based instruction at individual class or wider programmatic levels. The NCL list contains links to teaching/learning materials and community outreach materials developed by a number of organizations, and is updated regularly. In addition, this fall NCL member organizations will be developing teaching materials and related activities specifically for use in ABE/ESL contexts.
4. Stay Up to Date: Throughout the 2019-2020 program year, NCL members will be providing topical webinars and conference presentations to address specific aspects of the Census process and share knowledge and resources designed for adult learners and adult education practitioners. Webinars and conference presentations will be listed here on the NCL website and announced through the NCL listserv with links to available slide decks and recordings.
As we look forward to Adult Education and Family Literacy Week later this month, please join the NCL in advocating and working for a fair and accurate count for #Census2020!