ALL IN and Engage Brief U.S. Senate on Adult Literacy’s Link to Economic Opportunity
Washington, D.C. – September 21, 2023 – The Adult Literacy and Learning Impact Network (ALL IN) and Engage partnered today to provide a briefing for the U.S. Senate on the vital link between adult literacy and economic opportunity.
An estimated 54% of adults in the United States read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. 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.
The briefing aimed to increase engagement in the Senate Caucus on Adult Literacy – launched in February 2023 – which is co-chaired by Sen. Jack Reed (RI) and Sen. Susan Collins (ME).
“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 Jack 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 Susan 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.”
Caucus members also include Senators Ben Ray Luján (NM), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Alejandro Padilla (CA), Tina Smith (MN) and Todd Young (IN). ALL IN and Engage partnered to support the launch of the caucus earlier this year with the goals of raising awareness of this pressing issue and promoting common sense solutions at the federal and state levels.
“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 briefing included 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. Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Library Association (a member of ALL IN’s Coordinating Council), moderated the discussion with panelists Erin Landry, executive director of adult education, Louisiana Community and Technical College System; Dane Linn, senior vice president of corporate initiatives, Business Roundtable; Luis Quiñones, deputy vice president for workforce development and adult education, UnidosUS; and Brandi Ratliff, professional development specialist for adult education, Mississippi Community College Board.
In addition to Hall, Sharon Bonney, chief executive officer of the Coalition on Adult Basic Education, and Deborah Kennedy, president of the National Coalition for Literacy, provided remarks and represented ALL IN’s Coordinating Council at the briefing.
About ALL IN: The Adult Literacy and Learning Impact Network is a collective action initiative that has convened thought leaders from the adult literacy field and beyond to carry out the National Action Plan for Adult Literacy. ALL IN’s efforts are driven by its vision: a country where every adult can easily access high-quality, effective support to improve their reading, writing, digital and numeracy skills – regardless of who or where they are. To learn more, visit www.allinliteracy.org.
About Engage: Engage is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting women’s economic security through bipartisan, commonsense solutions. Engage views the journey of a woman’s economic security holistically as “a thread” across her entire life, during which factors within and outside her control determine her ability to achieve economic security. Among these factors are education, caregiving, saving for retirement, family, work, health, and so much more. For more information on Engage, please visit www.engagewomen.org.