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September 8 is International Literacy Day: “The Future Starts with the Alphabet”

September 8 is International Literacy Day: “The Future Starts with the Alphabet”


Happy International Literacy Day! How are you celebrating today? United Nations will be celebrating international literacy today and tomorrow, with a theme of Literacy and Sustainable Societies. Today UNESCO is also commemorating the 50th anniversary of the World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy. UNESCO’s Director-General states:

New technologies, including mobile telephones, also offer fresh opportunities for literacy for all. We must invest more, and I appeal to all Members States and all our partners to redouble our efforts – political and financial – to ensure that literacy is fully recognized as one of the most powerful accelerators of sustainable development. The future starts with the alphabet. Visit UNESCO’s website for more details.

International Literacy Association notes, “International Literacy Day (ILD) shines a spotlight on global literacy needs.” The World Literacy Foundation has posted an illiteracy factsheet on its website, noting that 775 million adults worldwide are illiterate. Two-thirds of these illiterate adults are women. The National Coalition for Literacy has posted factsheets on adult literacy as well as factsheets based on PIAAC data.

In the USA, September 8 is also Literacy Day in Georgia, as proclaimed by the state’s Governor Deal. In New York, in honor of International Literacy Day, Pencils of Promise (PoP) is having the Empire State Building lit in yellow, like a giant pencil.

The National Coalition for Literacy encourages you to celebrate International Literacy Day. NCL is also preparing upcoming blogs for Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week, September 21-26, and invites you to share how you will celebrate by e-mailing

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is Coming

National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is Coming

National Adult Education and Family Literacy week is soon approaching! This year, it will be September 21-26, 2015.

AEFL week is declared each year to raise awareness about adult education, English language learning, and family literacy in the United States. It gives educators the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the hard work and achievements of adult learners.

How can you or your organization participate? The National Coalition for Literacy has some resources to get you started:

  • Check out NCL’s AEFL Week Blog. We’ll be posting education facts, suggested activities, and student stories between now and the end of September.
  • Send student stories to We will share on our blog and website to show the impact education has had on learners’ lives.
  • Visit NCL’s website for suggestions on AEFL week activities and ideas for social media posts about adult and family literacy.
  • Follow @NCLAdvocacy and #AEFLWeek for Adult Education and Family Literacy week news and ideas.
  • Watch NCL’s two PIAAC webinars on our AEFL Week Resources page to learn about the statistics on adult literacy in the U.S. and how to use the data to bring attention to the issue.

More to come as we approach National Adult Education and Family Literacy week!

National Coalition For Literacy Participates in White House Upskill Summit

National Coalition For Literacy Participates in White House Upskill Summit

VP Biden Addressing Upskill Event
Vice President Biden addressing participants at White House Upskilling Summit, April 24th.

Last Friday, I was invited to represent both Digital Promise and the National Coalition for Literacy at the White House Upskill Summit, joining 150 employers, labor leaders, foundations, non-profits, educators and tech innovators from across the U.S. to share ideas and strategies for equipping workers with the skills they need to advance into better jobs. Much of the discussion focused on “frontline workers” — those workers who deal directly with customers or who are directly involved in the most visible functions of a business, and who are often at the bottom of the organizational chart. Assembly workers, bank tellers, cashiers, and stock workers are examples.

During the summit, the White House announced new commitments being made by public and private partners in response to a call to action launched by the President in January “to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education.”

I wish there had been more representatives from the adult education field present. For those of us who were there, it was a unique opportunity to advocate directly with employers on behalf of workers with very low skills—many of whom are part of that frontline workforce. As we know from PIAAC, two-thirds of the estimated 36 million adults in this country with very low literacy skills are employed, but often in low-paying, dead-end jobs. The lack of basic skills blocks millions of these workers from accessing the education and training they need to advance to better paying jobs.

I was impressed by the level of interest among participants in the needs of the lowest-skilled workers and in the U.S. adult education system in general. During his opening remarks, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez specifically acknowledged that literacy and numeracy challenges often hold people back from advancing their careers beyond those frontline jobs, and this provided a perfect opening for me as I advocated for these workers throughout the day. Perhaps it would be interesting for these people to consider sources such as Upskilled for reference on how the global is performing in education for comparison.

The summit closed with an address from Vice President Joe Biden, who tied the discussions held during the day to the broader goals laid out in his Job-Driven Training Action Plan from last year.

UPDATED: New Webinar Series for Advocates: Using PIAAC Data

UPDATED: New Webinar Series for Advocates: Using PIAAC Data

(Updated 5/12/15 with webinar slides)

This two-part webinar series, Framing Effective Advocacy Messages: Using PIAAC Data, will strengthen your ability to advocate for adult education using the most recent data on U.S. adults’ skills from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). Each webinar will combine a focused presentation on the research findings with a segment on effective messaging and a research-to-practice response by a local adult education advocate.

Webinar 1: Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem Solving

Friday, April 10, 2015, 3:00-4:30 pm ET

This webinar will provide a broad look at findings related to adult literacy, numeracy, and the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments. Presenters:

  • Margaret Patterson, Research Allies for Lifelong Learning
  • Dan Rafter, Spitfire Strategies
  • Roberta Soolman, Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts

NCL webinar 04-10-15 slides


Webinar 2: Health Literacy Through the PIAAC Lens

Monday, May 4, 2015, 3:00-4:15 pm ET

This webinar will focus on the connection between adults’ skills and their health and health literacy. Presenters:

  • Goodling Institute / Penn State University representative
  • Dan Rafter, Spitfire Strategies
  • Allison Kokkoros, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School

NCL_PIAAC-Health-webinar_4May2015 slides


Made possible through the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

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