Reed-authored resolution recognizes vital role that adult education and family literacy play in our nation’s well-being
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to raise public awareness of adult education and family literacy, assist adult learners, and support increased access to adult education and family literacy programs, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Susan Collins (R-ME) led Senate passage of a resolution to declare the week of September 17-23, 2023, as National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week.
Today, Senators Reed and Collins joined the Adult Literacy and Learning Impact Network (ALL IN) and Engage for a Senate staff briefing on the vital link between adult literacy and economic opportunity and stressed how adult education programs better prepare Americans for employment and success in in-demand careers.
An estimated 54 percent of adults in the United States read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level, according to ALL IN. One out of five struggles with foundational reading, writing, digital and numeracy skills, and fewer than 10% of adults in need of literacy support are receiving services through public funding. Low literacy lies at the core of multigenerational cycles of poverty and crime, and impedes the overall economic growth of communities. Foundational adult literacy skills are clearly linked to sustained income growth, better healthcare access, improved job prospects for justice-involved and returning citizens, and stronger language and literacy skills among children.
Together, Reed and Collins co-chair the Senate Caucus on Adult Literacy, which was launched in February 2023. U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Alejandro Padilla (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Todd Young (R-IN) are also founding members.
Senator Reed says adult education programs, public libraries, and community colleges are core workforce systems that help connect learners of all ages to in-demand career training and livable wage employment.
“The importance of adult literacy can’t be overstated. It’s key to helping people make informed decisions about their health, well-being, finances, future and more,” said Senator Reed. “Adult education offers a pathway to opportunity and we’ve got to do a better job of reaching and teaching adult learners. I am pleased to join ALL IN and my colleagues in this important endeavor as we work together on a bipartisan basis to enhance adult education, strengthen our workforce, and help more Americans gain important skills and achieve their goals.”
“Low levels of adult literacy pose significant economic challenges for our nation. Research shows that a mother’s education level is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors like family income,” said Senator Collins. “Improving adult literacy takes a whole community approach, and I applaud ALL IN and ENGAGE for their ongoing efforts to make this issue a national priority.”
“Investing time and resources in adult literacy at the individual level—including digital literacy—will have a lasting impact on our country as a whole,” said Sarah Cacicio, director of the Adult Literacy and Learning Impact Network (ALL IN). “We commend members of the Senate Caucus on Adult Literacy for their leadership and focus on foundational literacy skills, which have the potential to improve quality of life nationwide, today and for generations to come.”
“At Engage we understand that a woman’s economic security is determined by many factors, such as literacy, over the course of her life,” said Engage founder Rachel Pearson. “If a woman has low literacy skills, she will experience greater difficulty securing gainful employment, accessing necessary health care and contributing to the long-term wellbeing of her children if she is a mother. I urge everyone to remember that this issue impacts all communities nationwide and transcends party lines. I’m hopeful this caucus will continue to grow under the astute leadership of Senators Collins and Reed to advance adult literacy in our country.”
Today’s Senate briefing offered an overview of the current adult literacy landscape, as well as a panel discussion with speakers representing employers, adult learners, adult education providers and workforce preparation organizations.
The Senate-passed resolution states:
Whereas the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that more than 43,000,000 adults in the United States lack the basic literacy, numeracy, and digital skills necessary to succeed at home, in the workplace, and in society;
Whereas the literacy of the people of the United States is essential for the economic and societal well-being and the national security of the United States;
Whereas the United States reaps the economic benefits of individuals who improve their literacy, numeracy, and English-language skills;
Whereas literacy and educational skills are necessary for individuals to fully benefit from the range of opportunities available in the United States;
Whereas the economy and position of the United States in the world marketplace depend on having a literate, skilled population;
Whereas the unemployment rate in the United States is highest among those without a high school diploma or an equivalent credential, demonstrating that education is essential for economic recovery;
Whereas the educational skills of the parents of a child and the practice of reading to a child have a direct impact on the educational success of the child;
Whereas parental involvement in the education of a child is a key predictor of the success of a child, and the level of parental involvement in the education of a child increases as the educational level of the parent increases;
Whereas parents who participate in family literacy programs become more involved in the education of their children and gain the tools necessary to obtain a job or find better employment;
Whereas, as a result of family literacy programs, the lives of children become more stable and the success of children in the classroom and in future endeavors becomes more likely;
Whereas addressing the education needs of adults needs to be part of a long-term solution to the educational challenges faced by the people of the United States;
Whereas many older individuals in the United States lack the reading, numeracy, or English-language skills necessary to read a prescription and follow medical instructions, which endangers the lives of older individuals and the lives of their loved ones;
Whereas many individuals who are unemployed, underemployed, or receive public assistance lack the literacy skills necessary to obtain and keep a job, to continue their education, or to participate in job training and career development programs;
Whereas many high school dropouts do not have the literacy skills necessary to complete their education, transition to postsecondary education or career and technical training, or obtain work that provides a living wage;
Whereas a large portion of individuals in prison have low educational skills, and individuals without educational skills are more likely to return to prison once released;
Whereas many immigrants in the United States do not have the literacy skills necessary to succeed in the United States; and
Whereas National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week highlights the need to ensure that each individual in the United States has the literacy, numeracy, and digital skills necessary to succeed at home, at work, and in society: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) supports the designation of National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week to raise public awareness about the importance of adult education, workforce skills, and family literacy;
(2) encourages people across the United States to support programs to assist individuals in need of adult education, workforce skills, and family literacy programs;
(3) recognizes the importance of adult education, workforce skills, and family literacy programs; and
(4) calls on public, private, and nonprofit entities to support increased access to adult education and family literacy programs to ensure a fully literate society.