Summit on Adult Literacy Convenes Multisector Group of Leaders at Sunnylands
Washington, D.C. – December 13, 2022 – Last month, representatives from the corporate, philanthropic, government and education sectors convened at the historic Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, California for a Summit on Adult Literacy.
The summit marked the official launch of the Adult Literacy and Learning Impact Network, a new collective action initiative formed to implement the National Action Plan for Adult Literacy. ALL IN brings together national thought leaders from the adult literacy field and beyond in pursuit of a shared 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.
More than 54% of adults in the U.S. struggle with low literacy skills, reading and writing below a sixth-grade level. About 43 million Americans – nearly one in five adults – read below a third-grade level. This persistent, multigenerational challenge not only impacts income, workforce agility and quality of life for families nationwide, but also imposes significant costs on society.
• Economic Impact: A 2020 Gallup study commissioned by the Barbara Bush Foundation estimated that the U.S. economy is losing $2.2 trillion in GDP annually due to low adult literacy.
• Healthcare Costs: Low health literacy costs our economy between $106-$238 billion per year.
• Digital Skills Gap: A growing digital literacy gap could cause 76% of Black Americans and 62% of Hispanic Americans to be shut out or under-prepared for 86% of jobs in the U.S. by 2045.
• Multigenerational Impact: A study by the National Institutes of Health found that a mother’s education level is the single greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success.
The Summit on Adult Literacy was an intensive retreat designed to galvanize collective, systemic change. Attendees identified the following priorities for immediate action: raising awareness about adult literacy needs, improving technology-enabled research and development, and expanding access to high quality programs and services. Participants shared the following thoughts on the opportunity to solve America’s literacy challenge.
“Adult education holds the power to transform our workforce, our economy and the future of our democracy,” said Dr. Amy Loyd, assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education. “If we prioritize creating pathways into postsecondary education and career success, we will elevate our people, our families, our communities and our nation to heights never before seen.”
“Recent disruptions in education and workforce systems created an opportunity for collective and collaborative action,” said Denine Torr, Dollar General’s vice president of corporate social responsibility & philanthropy and executive director of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. “Whether you view literacy as a moral imperative, a civil right or an economic empowerment tool, when we all work together to lift neighbors, we can make a significant impact in our communities.”
“So many of the problems we’re wrestling with in our country boil down to basic literacy. Coming together to solve this challenge makes good business sense for everyone, from corporations to NGOs to academia,” said Daniel Gutwein, director of education at Intel and founder of the N50 Project. “No matter how many devices or how much access you provide, participation in the digital world depends on the ability to read, write and comprehend. We’re missing out on ideas from far too many people.”
“Schools have made literacy a priority for students because research shows it is foundational to future success. By supporting student literacy, schools are able to create lasting change for the students and communities they serve. Discovery Education is proud to partner with organizations like Dollar General Literacy Foundation to advance learning in this critical area, and we look forward to improving student outcomes by improving literacy nationwide,” said Lauren Lake, director of social impact for Discovery Education.
British A. Robinson, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation, shared, “As Barbara Bush said, ‘Literacy is everyone’s business. Period.’ We’re grateful to the leaders who chose to make literacy their business by sharing their time and insights with us, and to The Annenberg Trust at Sunnylands for using their prestigious platform to elevate the cause and to foster unprecedented collaboration that will ultimately lead to meaningful change.”
Organizations represented at the Summit on Adult Literacy at Sunnylands included: American Library Association, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Coalition on Adult Basic Education, Colgate-Palmolive, Comcast, Discovery Education, Dollar General, Houston (TX) Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy, Intel, Jobs for the Future, National Association of State Directors of Adult Education, National Center for Families Learning, National Coalition for Literacy, National Governors Association, ProLiteracy Worldwide, Tyson Foods, U.S. Department of Education (Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education), VALUEUSA, Walgreens Boots Alliance and World Education.
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 the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: Conceiver and convener of the National Action Plan for Adult Literacy, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for more than three decades. Established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, the Foundation is a public charity dedicated to creating a stronger, more equitable America in which everyone can read, write and comprehend in order to navigate the world with dignity. To learn more, visit www.BarbaraBush.org.
About Sunnylands: Once the winter home of the late Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, Sunnylands now brings world and national leaders together to identify solutions to issues in three areas of focus: global cooperation, civic and democratic engagement, and global health and food security. www.sunnylands.org.