Functional Illiteracy

What Role Does Adult Illiteracy Play in Poverty?

Adult illiteracy is often listed as a major contributor to poverty in developing countries. When a person is illiterate, the only jobs they are qualified for are lower-income opportunities. With such limited opportunities, it becomes very difficult for adults to provide for their families or work their way out of debt. Sometimes, children are forced to work as well, which keeps them out of school, causing the cycle of poverty and illiteracy to continue.

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen, and use numeracy and technology, at a level that enables people to express and understand ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, to achieve their goals, and to participate fully in their community and in wider society.”1

In many developing countries around the world, teaching an adult to read, write and do basic math makes a huge difference in his or her life. When an adult can apply for higher-income jobs, they can meet the needs of their family and break the cycle of poverty.

Adult literacy training often includes:

  • Reading lessons in which students learn the basics of their language, such as the letters and sounds, as well as how to write.
  • Learning basic math. Illiterate adults are often at a disadvantage in the marketplace, so this skill is essential, especially if the participant wants to break the cycle of poverty.

Literacy also impacts parenting. Children learn more words when they are parented by literate adults. Literate parents are able to read to their children, making them more prepared for school. Children with literate parents are also more likely to attend school. Literate parents see the value of education and want their children to be literate, too.

Will you help GFA World reach into the poorest communities of Asia and Africa and bring literacy training to illiterate adults? We’ve seen the results, and we know literacy is a key to escaping poverty.

1Defining Literacy.” Memorial Assistance Ministries / Literacy Advance of Houston. Accessed 14 July 2019.