The Role of Churches with Today’s Literacy Initiatives in American

Released on = March 21, 2005, 8:41 am

Press Release Author = By Martin Chekel, Acting President of The Talking Page™ Literacy Organization, a 501 c3 non-profit Association.

Industry = Education

Press Release Summary = American churches are in a unique position to set the tone for all Title I SES student and adult literacy initiatives now and in the future. However, churches face funding circumstances that limit the resources they have to expand and enhance family and adult literacy programs and services in their communities. Creating community collaborations to help increase the participation in
family and adult literacy program can best be implemented with the community church are a hub.

Press Release Body = American churches are in a unique position to set the tone for all Title I SES student and adult literacy initiatives now and in the future. However, churches face funding circumstances that limit the resources they have to expand and enhance family and adult literacy programs and services in their communities. Creating community collaborations to help increase the participation in family and adult literacy program can best be implemented with the community church are a hub.

America needs community family and adult literacy collaborations to help increase parental knowledge of their rights of in the education of their children, to increase parental participation and achievement in Federally funded adult literacy programs, to increase parental participation in the Federally funded No Child Left Behind Supplemental Education Services for their children, and to increase
participation in hundreds of private and business funded literacy programs. The Federal government provides about $800 million each year for adult state English literacy programs, about $880 million in Title I NCLB Supplemental Educational Services tutoring for students attending low performing schools, and as well as private and business funding about $250 million per year to other English literacy

To build partnerships to effectively address the significant literacy issues that confront poor and non-English speaking disadvantaged k-12 children, adults, and their families, the church must supply the passion and become the literacy partner in the community. Passion provides the energy. Passion will bring to life the partnership agenda and cement the commitment of the necessary partners.

Understanding the Family and Adult Literacy Initiatives in America

Before we can address the community literacy collaboration issues and solutions, these questions still remain;

• What is today’s concept of student and adult literacy?

• How can we ensure that low-income Americans are literate enough to face the economic challenges of the new millennium?

• How can we improve and reduce the costs of the delivery of family literacy instruction in America?

To consider these questions, the facts and insights below provide some astounding background to the enormity of the literacy problem in America.

Basic Facts About the Literacy Problem In America

• The National Literacy Act defines literacy as "an individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one's goals, and develop one's knowledge and potential.".
• About 90 million Americans (55% of the adult population) are functionally illiterate. (National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993)
• The National Adult Literacy Survey found that over 40 million Americans age 16 and older have significant literacy needs. More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level -- far below the level needed to earn a living wage.


• Forty-three percent of the people with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty; 17 percent receive food stamps, and 70 percent have no job or a part-time job. (National Institute for Literacy)
• Approximately 20% of American adults do not have a high school diploma. (U.S. Census 1990)
• Workers who lack a high school diploma earn a mean monthly income of $452, compared to $1,829 for those with a bachelor's degree.
• Four out of ten job applicants tested in 1992 for basic reading and/or math skills lacked the mastery necessary for the job they sought. (National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993)
• Over 50% of surveyed manufacturing companies indicate that more than half of their front line workers have serious literacy problems. (National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993)
• Parents with low literacy skills often do not have access to written information that could help them become better parents. (National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993)


• A child who grows up in a home with at least one illiterate parent is twice as likely to be illiterate. (Laubach Literacy Statistics)
• At least 1/3 of all AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) mothers are illiterate. (Laubach Literacy Statistics)

• The single most significant factor influencing a child's early educational success and achievement (first and second grade) is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school. (U.S. Department of Education, A Nation at Risk, 1985)
• Children who have not already developed some basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years. (National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993)


• As the education level of adults improves, so does their children's success in school.
• Helping low-literate adults improve their basic skills has a direct and measurable impact on both the education and quality of life of their children.
• Children of adults who participate in literacy programs improve their grades and test scores, improve their reading skills, and are less likely to drop out.

What is today’s concept of student and adult literacy practices in America?

The following report summarizes the current thinking and practices of the 1,000’s of literacy programs in America;

Family and Adult Literacy Programs and Practices by Sandra Kerka 1992, summarize strategies and resources that can be used by literacy practitioners.

Examples of the four types are given here:

Adult’s Direct-Children Direct

Programs in this category provide instruction to both adults and children and have a high degree of interaction. Sayers and Brown (1991) describe an innovative example that builds upon the language and cultural strengths of participants. .

Adult’s Indirect-Children Indirect

This form emphasizes short-term literacy enrichment events that present reading as a fun activity and a means of sharing. Parents are provided information and assistance in reading to their children and home literacy activities, and the day care center's library was expanded from 40 to 354 books.

Adult’s Direct-Children Indirect

Many examples of this type exist, in which adults receive formal literacy instruction as well as coaching on influencing children's literacy. The emphasis is on literacy in the first language (Spanish) as the foundation for literacy in English.

Adult’s Indirect-Children Direct

Focus of these programs is on teaching pre-reading or reading to children, often in preschool, elementary, after-school, or summer programs. Parents may be involved in workshops or recognition ceremonies and may receive information on helping their children, but do not receive literacy instruction.

Today’s concept of student and adult literacy practices must change

Today, the demands for a literate workforce in America and solutions for failing schools now requires family literacy programs that focus on student academic achievement, programs based on scientific research, programs that increase flexibility for the student, and programs that provide student options to current programs that are not working.

How can to ensure low income Americans are literate enough to face the economic challenges of the new millennium?

The answer is community literacy collaborations. The collaborations work best when they are just that - a product of real community effort. Every community has its own"culture" which must be understood and incorporated into the program. Community members respond favorably when a program recognizes and values their unique culture. Church members pass out flyers to local businesses, see that the program is publicized in print to parents, become student tutors, and offer local classroom space in their churches.

Building community partnerships is the best way to provide supplemental educational services to Title 1 students and adult literacy programs - especially in rural areas where program funding must be spread over such wide geographical area. As in other community and county organizations in which collaboration has been successful, this type of collaboration allows each member to play a specific, predefined role and keeps control of the program in the hands of the stakeholders. Hence, it ensures that each student meets their academic achievement goals. High school and adult
students need to have a strong foundation of academic literacy skills and training for high-wage careers.

The Role of Churches in the Community Collaborations Literacy Initiatives in America Faith-based organizations can receive funds to provide tutoring and other academic enrichment services for eligible low-income students. Religious organizations can become supplemental educational services (SES) providers by applying to states and then working with districts to provide services directly to students in reading, language arts and mathematics. Many faith-based organizations are already providing these services in inner-city and rural communities across the country, where assistance is needed most. Faith-based organizations often find it useful to
establish their program as a not-for-profit (501c3) to receive funds.

In addition to becoming supplemental educational services (SES) providers, faith-based groups can receive grants from a range of other programs that provide extra academic help. These include activities such as after-school programs (21st Century Community Learning Centers); early literacy programs (Early Reading First); technology programs (Community Technology Centers); and mentoring programs (Safe and Drug-Free Schools).

The goals of the community SES tutor provider and adult literacy collaboration between churches, governments, and businesses, are the following;

GOAL: Focus on Student and Adult English Literacy Achievement

• Instruction based on academic standards and assessments
• Includes achievement of all students
• Increases the percent of proficient and advanced students and 100percent tested
• Shows progress over time
• Provides the same high standards of academic achievement for all
• Ensures achievement is statistically valid and reliable
• Provides continuous & substantial academic improvement for all students
• Provides separate measurable annual collaborative objectives for achievement

GOAL: Focus on Scientific Research Based English Literacy Programs

• A Scientific Research Based Literacy Program defined by the National Reading Panel Report and provides analysis and direct instruction in five areas of literacy development: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.
• Each skill taught by direct classroom instruction is backed by evidence from scientific research and proven strategies for teaching literacy skills.
• These direct instruction programs emphasize methods and approaches that have worked well and caused reading improvement for large numbers of children.
• Teachers can build their students' skills efficiently and effectively, with greater results than before. Most importantly, with targeted direct instruction, the incidence of reading success will increase dramatically.

GOAL: Focus on Reducing Bureaucracy and Increasing Flexibility

• To advance the educational priorities of the State
• To reduce bureaucracy all partners must enter into performance memo of understanding agreements with collaborations between churches, governments, and businesses.

• To consolidate and use Federal funds for activities aligned with other grants.
• To assisting Local Education Agency’s in making AYP, improving student achievement, and narrowing achievement gaps.

GOAL: Focus on Increasing Options for Students and Adults

• Provide No Child Left Behind Supplemental Educational Services (SES) academic instruction designed to increase the academic achievement of students in low-performing schools.
• Provide a program designed to improve the education of limited English proficient (LEP) children, youths, and adults by helping them learn English and meet challenging state academic content and student academic achievement standards.
• Provide resources, serve as mentors, as teachers and act as advocates, particularly in schools and communities where parental involvement is limited.
• Share success stories with community leaders so that they too can use resources and information provided by No Child Left Behind.
• Assist the Office of Vocational and Adult Education to capture information on the effectiveness of the family and adult literacy programs, the prevalence of programs in communities and institutions, the number of students enrolled, and how programs
are structured in order to provide services to students.
• Work to help all students reach high levels of achievement and empower students and parents to seek meaningful educational options of postsecondary education.

How can to improve and reduce the costs of the delivery of literacy instruction in America?

It is imperative that collaborations are formed between community partners and well as within the larger community. These collaborations will encourage and value the achievement of successful students and adults, maintaining control of individuals
running the program components and providing recognition to stakeholders who participate in partnerships. This will allow adult education and SES literacy programs to make the most of the funding available for this essential service. If community SES tutor provider and adult literacy collaborations are needed between churches, governments, and businesses, we must make them. If no opportunity for literacy collaboration exists, we must create them.


Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning; Vol. 7, No. 1 Fall. 2002, NATIONAL FORUM ON INFORMATION LITERACY: Summary of the January 26, 2001, Meeting Host, National Education Association, Washington, D.C.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education Family Literacy Programs and Practices
by Sandra Kerka 1992

Mrs Ingrid Rüütel at the 13th European Conference on Reading on 6 July 2003 in Tallinn 06.07.2003

PREPARING FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE; Hans Meeder Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education Current Literacy Challenge - Enhancing Education ; The Information Age and Reading Skills; Road to Reading Project

Web Site =

Contact Details = Martin Chekel
The Talking Page(TM) Literacy Organization
a 501 c 3 nonprofit
Registered Offices;
1738 Tradewinds Lane
Newport Beach, CA 92660
949 650 8101 Phon/fax

  • Printer Friendly Format
  • Back to previous page...
  • Back to home page...
  • Submit your press releases...