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.
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, the homeless and young children. Getting these groups to fill out the census questionnaire presents challenges – they may have no address to send it to, they may not trust the state or they may be physically/mentally unable. It is vital that these groups are counted, however, so that the issues facing them can be addressed. It is not possible, for example, to improve adult literacy if we don’t know how many adults can’t read or write. Similarly, we can’t end homelessness if we don’t know how many homeless people they are. That is why the census is so important.
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!
Jennifer Leach, Assistant Director at the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, which received a 2016 Literacy Leadership Award from the National Coalition for Literacy last night, published this blog post on the FTC’s site on Monday:
It’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. It’s a time to raise public awareness about the importance of both things adult education and family literacy and the 36 million adults in the US with low literacy skills.
The FTC has a consumer protection website with plain and simple advice on dealing with everything from making a budget to rebuilding your credit to avoiding job scams. Consumer.gov and Consumidor.gov were designed for anyone who’s short on time and needs just the facts; people with limited reading ability; and educators who want their students to have financial literacy and life skills, like how to buy a used car, for example. Buying a car isn’t as easy as one would think. You don’t simply hand over cash to someone and take a car in return. When buying a car, fuel needs to be considered as does insurance costs, mileage count, and many other factors. Luckily, finding insurance is simple as you can just click here for quotes, but that’s only one element on the buying process. These sites can help with the other elements of the process and make sure that a car is being purchased correctly and for a fair amount based on its condition. Car insurance also isn’t just about accepting the cheapest policy, it’s about using resources like this state farm review to find the policy that will protect the car the most. it’s all well and good paying £200 less for insurance but if it doesn’t cover your $500 repair then you’re losing out. There are many ways in which you can become financially literate. If you are unaware of how you can obtain credit cards without ssn, there’s a good chance that you are not as financially literate as you should be. Learning these crucial skills are hugely important to help you succeed when it comes to your finances.
Educators tell us their students need these skills but the teachers could use more help getting the information across. So we created a series of lesson plans to help adult education and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers use Consumer.gov’s resources in the classroom.
Every day, we work to make sure the site is useful to anyone who uses it. There are videos, an audio read-along of all the text on the site, worksheets and presentations, and everything is available toorder free in print.
This year, the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL) has given the FTC one of its 2016 Literacy Leadership Awards for its commitment to serving and guiding adults with limited reading ability, and for its outreach to those working with them, particularly teachers in adult basic education and ESL programs. It’s an exciting honor, and one we’ll celebrate by doubling down on our efforts to tell people about fraud, and how to report it. Care to join us?
Congratulations to Jennifer and her colleagues and all her fellow honorees. And thank you, Jennifer, for this call to action.
CHICAGO — As we mark 2016’s National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, from Sept. 26 through Oct. 1, libraries across the country are transforming lives through literacy services for adults and families. The increasing demand for services underscores the intersection of literacy with access and equity. In its ties to income inequality, health outcomes, housing access, and rates of incarceration, literacy is an issue of social and economic justice.
In the U.S., more than 30 million adults struggle with basic literacy. Adults who lack a high school diploma are more than twice as likely as those with higher levels of education to be unemployed, working a low-wage job, and living in poverty. At the same time, individuals with high school credentials earn roughly $10,000 more per year than those without. Over four decades, education levels have a greater impact on earnings than any other demographic factor. The impact of low literacy is evident across generations as well: A mother’s education level is the number one determinant of her children’s future academic success.
Libraries are helping to bridge these gaps through their adult and family literacy services. At Sioux Center Public Library, adult literacy staff has leveraged community partnerships to expand access and services for adult learners. Members of the rural community were eager to take the Spanish GED, but the library lacked the staffing to offer classes. Over the course of a year, Bilingual Services Director Ruth Mahaffy advocated for a partnership with Northwest Iowa Community College, which is 30 miles from Sioux Center—a prohibitive distance for prospective participants. The College agreed to bring the classes to the community if the library could guarantee five students. Twenty-four people signed up. The College now offers classes 30 hours per week at the library, double the number initially offered, and the library recruits the most students for the College.
At Azusa City Library in California, adult literacy staff established Health Literacy Learning, a partnership among the library, the Azusa Neighborhood Wellness Center, and the Azusa Pacific University. The program is grounded in the belief that literacy is “a catalyst to transform lives.” And indeed, through these twice-a-week sessions over eight weeks, participants develop skills in English language learning while also gaining literacy in health-related topics such as nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention. Nursing students answer participants’ questions, monitor participants’ blood pressure, and track exercise through pedometers given to each participant.
In celebrating Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, we recognize the efforts of these and countless other libraries working year round in the service of literacy for adults and their families.
Right to Read
Right to Read will celebrate National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week at 5 pm with an event for community members to meet Right to Read students and sample various cuisines. Right to Read is a nonprofit addressing illiteracy and poverty in Greeley and the Weld County area of Colorado. Its goal is to “provide adults with education and cultural integration skills so they may live a better life.”
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner proclaimed Sept. 26 – Oct. 1 Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, “underscoring the continued demand for programs and services for adult students who need to improve basic skills in reading, writing and math to obtain a high school equivalency certificate.”
During National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, the Division of Workforce and Community Education (WCE) at Kishwaukee College is inviting “anyone wanting to take the first step to earning a high school credential” to attend free High School Equivalency and English as a Second Language classes offered at the College and partner sites. Registration will be open at class sites the week of October 17.
Some interesting census data about Illinois: more than 1.4 million adults in Illinois (15% of the adult population) do not have a high school diploma or High School Equivalency credential. About one out of every seven Illinoisans is an immigrant; and approximately 44% of Illinois’ eight million adults have not completed any college coursework.
For more information on programs and services available through the Division of Workforce and Community Education at Kishwaukee College, visitwww.kishwaukeecollege.edu/wce or call 815-825- 9408.
According to SurfKY News, Henderson Adult Learning Center is celebrating AEFL Week by planting a tree at Henderson Community College.
Administrative Assistant and Instructor of Adult Education Pam Buchanan said the tree represents “planting the seed” for adult education students.
“When I thought about Adult Education week, the first thing that popped into my head is that we’re planting a seed,” Buchanan said. “We’re planting something for the future for these students.”
Adult Education of Henderson is the oldest full-time adult education program at a community college in Kentucky. The program offered resources for improving basic employment skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, skill assessments, TABE testing and remediation, English as a Second Language and academic skills free of charge to Henderson County citizens.
Student Jaime Ruiz began the Adult Education program in June and is currently working to obtain her GED.
“The Adult Education program is a wonderful thing to do,” Ruiz said. “The people here are really nice and they really care about your education and they also really push you to further your education for the future.”
Ruiz helped plant the tree and said it symbolizes the process of the Adult Learning Center.
“The tree is to show, we’re going to plant a seed, so they’re planting seeds in us, like knowledge for us to use our education to go further in our future,” she said.
Ruiz said she plans to retake her GED in November and will attend HCC to major in medical laboratory technology.
Adult Education Director Pamala Wilson said she encourages people to come out and see the Adult Learning Center.
“I just want to invite anyone out who would like to come and see our center or volunteer. We love volunteers to help us,” Wilson said.
The Adult Learning Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Richland Community College is celebrating by “highlighting its ability to provide programs and services that adult students need to improve vital basic skills.”
RCC is one of more than 84 adult education providers offering programs funded through the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) that improves and expands the nation’s available pipeline of workers by assisting those who lack the educational requirements to achieve gainful employment in today’s increasing high-tech, global job market.
Yankton Area Literacy Council
Yankton Area Literacy Council (YALC) and Cornerstones Career Center celebrated Adult Education and Family Literacy Week today at 5:00 pm in the meeting room at the Yankton Community Library. Certificates will be awarded to those who did not receive them at the National Literacy Day celebration held earlier this month.