Adult Literacy

Libraries have a long tradition of providing resources and services for adults wanting to improve their reading and writing skills. Basic, functional literacy is an essential skill for an individual’s personal and professional growth—it is also key to their full, beneficial use of a library’s services and programs. The need is great: More than 36 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level.  Libraries are helping to meet this need through outreach, programming, and partnerships.

ALA Resources

With the award of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant, the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services partnered with ProLiteracy to develop a free online course that guides libraries in integrating adult literacy services and policies to help meet the needs of the 36 million U.S adults who lack adequate literacy and basic skills. The interactive course includes 10 modules based on the recommendations outlined in the 2014 Adult Literacy through Libraries: An Action Agenda.

The course is free to all, though registration is required.

Literacy for All: Adult Literacy through Libraries is a toolkit to help libraries add, expand, and advocate for adult literacy services and was created by ALA's Committee on Literacy and Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services.

ALA Advocacy - Literacy: Literacy is one of ALA’s key action areas. This page includes literacy advocacy resources, adult literacy toolkits, opportunities to get involved in the work, and selected ALA policy and statements on lifelong literacy.

ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services: Resources, workshops, webinars, grants, and initiatives supporting literacy across the lifespan.

American Dream Literacy Initiative 10-Year Retrospective Report: Findings from a multi-year impact study, profiles of grantee libraries, and best practices for serving English Language Leaners.


California Library Literacy Services: A wealth of resources, including a marketing toolkit, roles & goals curriculum, and assessment and accountability resources.

DC Public Library Adult Literacy Resource Center: Information on the library’s adult literacy programs, including resource manuals for adult developing readers book discussions.

Educate and Elevate: Professional development, a campaign toolkit, and other advocacy tools for adult education.

Florida Literacy Coalition: Grant opportunities, professional development sessions, and resources in the field of adult literacy.

IFLA Guidelines for Library Based Literacy Programs: General guidelines and an informal checklist for creating a successful library-based literacy program.

Illinois State Library: Grant programs and services for adult and family literacy, including a web-based training program for literacy volunteers.

Illinois Secretary of State Library/Literacy Publications: Archive of literacy booklets, brochures, and forms, including "How to Start an Adult Volunteer Literacy Program."

LINCS: U.S. Department of Education Literacy Information and Communication System: Offers a number of professional development opportunities, trainings, and workshops. Visit the companion site for the Adult Learner Center - online activities and resources for adult learners.

The Open Door Collective, which aims "to help adult basic skills advocates make common cause with advocates for other issues (health, employment, incarceration, libraries, etc.) in order to build an integrated approach to ending poverty," has released a series of "make the case" papers, including "Why Public Libraries and Adult Basic Education Programs Should Advocate For and Partner With Each Other," to which ALA contributed. See highlights from the paper here: Public Libraries and ABE Partnerships

Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC): Current indicator of the nation's progress in adult skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments.

ProLiteracy: Information and resources on the promotion of literacy, including advocacy, professional development, educational materials, tutorials, webinars, and other resources.

Supporting Adult Literacy in Public Libraries Toolkit: A step-by-step guide to starting a library-based adult literacy program, based on the program at Westland Public Library in Michigan.