According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, nearly half the adult population, or 93 million adults in the United States, has very poor or marginal literacy skills. 62% of adults in the lowest level of proficiency had dropped out of high school, resulting in a lack of education they would need to be successful later in life. Realizing the importance of this issue, many companies and foundations annually give out grants for adult literacy to community organizations. Some recent corporate grants for adult literacy include those by IBM and UPS, while private foundations investing in this issue include Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Verizon Foundation. Nationally, the Ford Foundation and Hearst Foundation awarded the largest grants for adult literacy in 2006; overall 36 foundation grants for adult literacy were awarded in that year across the country.
With Hispanics (some of whom speak primarily Spanish) the fastest growing minority in the country, an estimated 11 million adults in the U.S. are “nonliterate in English”, making it difficult for them to find jobs or be productive in society. These barriers affect not only adults but also children: parent-child literacy activities in the home, such as parents reading to their children, have been found to improve the reading skills of the younger generation. Family literacy is therefore another important topic of concern for lawmakers, granting agencies and the general public. As a result, not only are ESL programs the fastest growing component of the state-administered adult education programs, but millions of dollars in public funds are awarded each year in the form of grants for adult and family literacy initiatives. A prominent grantor of family literacy funds, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has funded nearly 600 programs in 47 states and the District of Columbia since being launched by Barbara Bush in March 1989. In 2006, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy awarded a total of $628,782 in grants for family literacy programs.
Comprehensive information about adult and family literacy can be obtained from organizations such as ProLiteracy Worldwide, National Assessment of Adult Literacy, and the National Institute for Literacy.
The above article was written by Saadia Faruqi, author of Best Practices in Grant Seeking: Beyond the Proposal. Saadia has more than 10 years of grant writing and development experience in the nonprofit sector, including at-risk youth, women’s health, domestic violence, science education, adult and family literacy, and the arts. Prior to starting her own grant writing firm, she worked as Grants Administrator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston.