Not a Branch, But the Root

Adult Basic Education (ABE) teachers are accustomed to feeling like they work in a forgotten branch of education. For many, education is something that happens when you’re young. Say the word “education” and many people implicitly think of primary and secondary education (K-12) or maybe higher education (college and post graduate). Rarely does Adult Basic Education (ABE), High School Equivalency, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), or vocational training come to mind.

It is, however, impossible to untangle Adult Basic Education from these other phases of the education system. According to the National Center For Education Statistics, 33% of students enrolled in postsecondary education are adults over the age of 25. A study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research also shows that 3.9 million postsecondary students in the United States are parents.

Adult Literacy Impacts Children

Studies show that children’s reading scores improve dramatically when a parent is involved in helping them learn to read. However, many parents lack the basic literacy skills to feel self-confident enough to advocate on their behalf of their children, to read to them, and help them with their homework. Nationally, approximately 43 million adults have reading, math, and/or English language deficiencies. In Massachusetts, more than 2 million adults (44%) do not have functional English literacy skills or the basic abilities expected of a high school graduate.

If children don’t have the support at home to succeed in primary and secondary education, the risk is very real that they’ll become the next generation of adults who are working in low-wage jobs or dependent on public assistance to make ends meet.

Adult Literacy Impacts The Economy

According to ProLiteracy, workers who have less education than a high school diploma have median weekly earnings of $592 – three times less than the highest level of education.

Literacy doesn’t just impact individuals, it impacts entire communities and the larger state and national economies. Adult literacy rates impact everything from a child’s academic success, to incarceration rates. In fact, bringing all adults to the equivalent of a sixth-grade reading level would generate an additional $2.2 trillion in annual income for the country.

Adult Basic Education is essential to children just starting their education, and to adults who were failed by our education system or have come to a new country and are starting over.

If an individual’s education is a tree, Adult Basic Education is at the root. Please join First Literacy in our work to support adults who have returned to the classroom to make better lives for themselves and their families through education. Our society is stronger when everyone is educated.

September 26, 2018

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