National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week is an opportunity to raise public awareness about the need for and value of adult education and family literacy. Every year, on behalf of the adult literacy and basic education field, the National Coalition for Literacy requests that Congress recognize one week as National Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week. In 2023, AEFL Week was observed September 17 to September 23!
Individuals, organizations, and communities celebrate NAEFL Week in a variety of ways, with a unified goal of increasing financial and societal support for access to basic education programs for U.S. adults with low literacy, numeracy, and digital skills. Educators from all over the country join together with adult learners, community partners, business leaders, legislators, and friends of adult education to amplify their successes.
But what exactly is adult education? We usually think of it as learning to read, write, speak English, or do math. When in reality, adult education is all of those things – and more. Adult education is developing digital skills, studying to become a citizen, or gaining skills to find a job or start a career. It’s learning about health, money management, and how to support children’s learning.
AEFL Week brings focus to the ways people are working together to bridge the gap between the need for adult education and availability of effective, opportunity-building, and life-changing education and training. To put things in perspective:
- Over 43 million adults in the United States cannot read above a 3rd grade level.
- Nearly 63 million adults cannot do 4th grade math.
- One in five adults have trouble reading communications from their children’s teachers.
- One in three adults have difficulty creating a household budget.
- One in four adults have trouble navigating websites or using digital tools at work.
Adult education benefits everyone. It’s a vital contributor to the strength and resilience of every community. Adults who participate in adult education programs have higher incomes, better health outcomes, greater workplace productivity, higher participation in civic activities like voting, and more.
Even if you don’t think you could benefit from adult education and family literacy programs, you can help others in your community to access services and tools that can help them become lifelong learners. Fewer than 10 percent of the adults who could benefit from adult education programs are able to participate in them. Policy and funding limitations leave many communities and individuals unserved or underserved. You can help by:
- Contacting your local, state, and federal elected officials to advocate for adult education funding.
- Support adult education programs in your community by donating or by volunteering.
- Urge local businesses and employers to invest in adult education and workforce preparation.
Adult education and family literacy plays a vital role in our nation’s well-being, and every one of us can work side-by-side in every state, territory, and district to heighten public awareness, strengthen alliances, leverage resources, and increase the number of people participating in AEFL Week and beyond.