Strategic plan to provide data, strategies and community actions to address Houston’s adult literacy challenge.
The Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy (MOAL) and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation) recently unveiled Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint, a call for action and comprehensive plan for coordinated city-wide change to address alarming adult literacy rates. Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, is faced with a systemic issue that threatens the city’s economy and challenges the prosperity of individuals and families. The development of the Blueprint was underwritten by the Foundation and its partners EOG Resources, Greater Houston Community Foundation, and Phillips 66, along with the expertise from Deloitte Consulting LLP. Introduced on the Late First Lady Barbara Bush’s 96th birthday, the Blueprint delineates a first-time strategic and coordinated plan to ensure that more adults across our city receive a second chance in life through the development of strong foundational and digital literacy skills, as well as essential workforce skills needed to thrive in our global economy and society.
“One in every three adults in Harris County lacks the necessary skills to participate and fully engage in the workplace and society. While literacy is a fundamental right of every Houstonian, it has not been a reality for many adults in our city,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint prioritizes literacy for adults, which is critical in strengthening our future workforce, the wellbeing of our neighborhoods, and the next generation of young learners. I envision a city in which every Houstonian has equitable access to the opportunities to gain the skills they need to succeed in life.”
The Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation worked together over the past five months to engage more than 100 cross-sector leaders from business, K-12 and higher education, nonprofit, government and others, as well as adult learners and instructors to inform and shape the Blueprint. The Blueprint outlines data and research on the pervasive low literacy rates among adults and implications on our city’s economy and people; articulates, goals, strategies and tactics to combat the adult literacy challenge; and calls upon our city to unite in changing lives and the future of our city through literacy.
“The Late First Lady Barbara Bush believed everyone deserves an equal opportunity to live the American Dream, and that if we don’t give everyone the ability to read and write, then we aren’t giving them an equal chance to succeed,” said Dr. Julie Finck, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. “In addition, according to a recent analysis commissioned by the Foundation with Gallup as part of the Blueprint development, our city would increase its annual Gross Domestic Product by $13 billion through helping adults with the lowest literacy skills increase their competencies by one level. We must act swiftly and purposefully to support increased literacy skills for Houston adults who deserve every chance to reach their fullest potential. We have an economic and moral imperative to do so.”
Literacy levels are inextricably linked to nearly every community metric including income, crime and recidivism, health, education attainment, civic engagement, generational poverty, and economic vitality. The Blueprint is a comprehensive plan to unite to address Houston’s adult literacy challenge and realize this vision: All adults in Houston will have ready, equitable access to high-quality education to gain the literacy skills and knowledge they need for their roles in work, life, and the community by 2036.
“We are committed to convening all stakeholders in our city to craft together a vision for the future that must include the goal of 100% literacy for the citizens of Houston. Literacy IS the heartbeat of Houston and the blueprint IS our visionary call to action” said Federico Salas-Isnardi, Director of MOAL. “Now it is time to act upon the plan to help change the lives of Houstonians and position our city as the model to break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy once and for all.”
Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint offers a crucial path forward, outlining seven overarching goals with a roadmap entailing evidence-based strategies and practical actions aimed at boosting basic literacy skills, and competencies along three key literacy domains—digital, financial and health. Furthermore, it outlines metrics for monitoring our progress and informing future decisions. The seven goals are:
- Awareness and Action – Raise awareness of and galvanize communities to address and solve the systemic crisis of adult literacy.
- A Comprehensive System – Create a data-informed, comprehensive, cross-sector system of adult literacy programming, services, and resources.
- Multi-Generational Learning – Expand access to and improve positive outcomes for participation in basic education, family literacy, health literacy, and financial literacy learning opportunities across generations.
- Workforce Skills and Opportunities – Improve employability skills and increase access to career and entrepreneurship opportunities for adult learners.
- Digital Resources and Skills – Reduce the gap in access to technology and digital resources and increase the number of adults completing digital skills training.
- A Common Data System and Practice – Design, develop, and implement a common data and learning management system for adult literacy.
- Sustainable Resources for Progress – Establish sustainable resources to support and build capacity for Blueprint initiatives and progress.
“Like public libraries across the nation have done for generations, HPL is proud to stand steadfast in the fight against illiteracy” said Dr. Rhea Lawson, Houston Public Library Director. “I am honored to join the Mayor, MOAL, and our partners at the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to launch the Blueprint for Adult Literacy – a magnificent achievement in our city’s fight against illiteracy and a model for the country.”
One in three adults in Harris County is functionally illiterate and more than 130 million adults in the United States read below a commensurate fourth grade level, according to the most recent results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) administered by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. Furthermore, there are pervasive racial disparities nationally with respect to adult literacy levels. Specifically, both Black and Hispanic adults are about three times more likely to have low literacy skills as compared to White adults.
The Houston community is invited to visit www.HoustonAdultLiteracy.org to download Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint and learn about our city’s pervasive adult literacy challenge, its impact on our community, economy and society and our plan for how we all may come together to assure for a vibrant future for our city and everyone who calls Houston “home.”
The development of Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint took place over a five-month period and involved data and research analysis and a series of focus groups and interviews with cross-sector leaders – business, nonprofit, government, philanthropic and education – to gather diverse perspectives on the state of low literacy in Houston and incorporate those perspectives into the seven goals that will shape the path forward. The Adult Blueprint will also build upon the special report, called Houston’s Literacy Crisis: A Blueprint for Community Action, released by the Foundation in 2014 and expand focus to include digital literacy and integrated workforce skills.
For further information, visit the Houston Public Library at www.houstonlibrary.org or call 832-393-1313.