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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Improving Adult Literacy Instruction:
Options for Practice and Research


Adult Literacy 






A high level of literacy in both print and digital media is required for negotiating most aspects of 21st century life -- succeeding in a competitive job market, supporting a family, navigating health information, and participating in civic activities. But according to a recent survey, more than 90 million adults in the United States lack the literacy skills needed to have fully productive and secure lives.


At the request of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Research Council convened a committee of experts from many disciplines to synthesize research on literacy and learning in order to improve literacy instruction for the nation's adults.


The committee's report, Improving Adult Literacy: Options for Practice and Research recommends a program of research and innovation to gain a better understanding of adult literacy learners, improve instruction, and create the supports adults need for learning and achievement. It also discusses technologies that show promise for supporting adult literacy learners. The report is a valuable resource for curriculum developers, federal agencies, literacy program administrators, educators, and funding agencies.

For more information:

  • Download a free PDF or order print copies of the report from the National Academies Press.
  • Read and download short summaries of the report, including briefs for policymakers and researchers and booklets for adult literacy practitioners.
  • Learn more about a public briefing about the report that was held in May 2012, and view the archived webcast. At the meeting, members of the study committee presented the report's key findings and messages, and invited experts explored opportunities for acting on its recommendations.

The project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education, which is using the report and booklets at its conferences and teacher training activities.


Public Discussion on Improving Adult Literacy Instruction


A public discussion of the National Research Council report Improving Adult Literacy: Options for Practice and Research was held on May 30, 2012. Members of the committee that wrote the report presented its key findings and messages. Invited experts explored opportunities for acting on the report’s recommendations, as well as the challenges involved in doing so.

Get more information on the public discussion
(archived webcast, agenda)



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