The United Nations says that in the world today there are one billion adults who cannot read. Most of these are women. In and out of the church. Rich and poor countries. They cannot read a Bible, help a child with homework, or read the instructions on a medicine bottle. Neither can they fill out a work application. In the United States it is estimated that one in five adults cannot read a bedtime story to a child. Not only do these women deserve our help, helping them can be a way of reaching them and their families with the gospel.

Christian Literacy

  1. Is a tool for the evangelist—providing an ideal climate for conversion and church planting;
  2. Opens the pages of the Bible and other Christian literature to both non-Christian and growing convert;
  3. Is a door into nations and parts of nations where other types of missions are unwelcome;
  4. Provides a satisfying activity for local Christians who are eager to help lift up their own people to a better life;
  5. Expresses compassion, demonstrating that Christians are still in the Samaritan business.

Experts say that in areas of the world where literacy is less than 50%, literacy programs are the best way to plant churches.

Illiteracy affects every part of the world. For this reason, Women's Ministries is conducting literacy programs, large and small, in many parts of the world. Some of these are in South Africa, India, Togo, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Brazil and the United States.

10 Reasons for Women's Literacy Programs

The World Bank calls education of women and girls "one of the best investments a country can make in its future growth and welfare." The same can be said for the church.

  • The education of women has a positive effect on family income and national productivity. Women's earning capacity and productivity increase with higher levels of education.
  • Improvements in female literacy correlate with the adoption of advanced agriculture practices which contribute to increased yields and better storage, processing, marketing, and food security. This would lead to an increase in tithes and offerings in much of the world.
  • Educated women use resources and skills training, in every sector from health to horticulture, more efficiently, thus raising the investment value of government donor expenditures. Educated women can and do use government/church investments in health, family planning and education services more efficiently. They are more likely to bring about social change.
  • Primary education opens the way to further education or vocational training in areas such as agriculture and health services, thereby increasing opportunities to find employment. Makes women tithe payers. Imagine our schools and offices without women.
  • The better educated the mother, the more likely her child is to survive infancy. The children of educated mothers are better nourished and healthier. Saves money for the family and contributes to the church. Able to read prescriptions, warnings, nutrition information, et cetera.
  • The children of educated mothers are more likely to succeed in school, more so than if only the father is educated. Their daughters are more likely to attend school, do well and graduate. It is almost impossible to conceive of the children of an educated mother being illiterate. "If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family." —J. E. Kwewgyir Aggrey, Ghanian Educator, 1875-1927.
  • Educated women tend to marry later. Later marriage usually improves the woman's health in childbearing.
  • Are more likely to plan their families and have fewer children. Gives access to the Bible and religious literature. Fewer children means that the family will better be able to give them a Christian education.
  • The whole family will have greater access to the Bible and religious literature.
  • The woman will better be able to witness. This will lead to church growth.

If you would like to be involved in literacy, there are several things you can do:

  • Read to yourself
  • Read to a child
  • Read to a shut-in
  • Create a literacy awareness in your congregation
  • Find out about literacy programs in your area
  • Assess what type of program is still needed.
  • Make a financial contribution to a literacy program
  • Set up a program
  • Provide tutoring space in your church
  • Become a tutor
  • Direct a program
  • Drive a student to class
  • Provide baby sitting service during the tutoring session
  • Give a gift for reading materials
  • Get involved in your community's education system
  • Be knowledgeable about your local board of education
  • Advocate for equal education for all.

Who to Contact:

—Your division or union Women's Ministries director

—The General Conference Women's Ministries Department

The resource material "So You Want to Begin A Literacy Program" is available from the GCWM department via airmail for a small fee (see Resources), or you can download it directly from the internet right here. The entire resource booklet may be opened in MS Word (524KB), HTML file, or Adobe Acrobat (654KB), depending on what program is available to you. You may print it and reproduce it for your use.

—Your local library. In the United States most libraries can tell you where you can get training as a tutor. They supply all materials needed.


Resource agencies, organizations and materials change. You will need to check to see what agencies and materials are currently available. If you find other useful organizations and materials, if you will let us know at the General Conference, we will keep the division directors and literacy leaders informed.

Usually international and regional organizations, and often governments, provide these resources free of charge.

Contact General Conference Women's Ministries for the manual especially prepared for Women's Ministries:

So You Want to Begin a Literacy Program

12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904

Phone: (301) 680-6608
Fax: (301) 680-6600

International Organizations

American Bible Society

1865 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Phone: (800) 322-4253
Catalogues and materials available in both English and Spanish

Christian Literacy Associates

541 Perry Hwy
Pittsburgh, PA 15229

Phone: (412) 364-3777

German Foundation for International Development (Education Section)

1 Simrockstrasse
5300 Bonn, GERMANY

International Reading Association

Public Information Office
800 Barksdale Road
P O Box 8139
Newark, DE 19714-8139

Phone: (800) 336-READ (800-336-7323), U.S. and Canada, +302-731-1600, elsewhere
E-mail: [email protected]

Laubach Literacy Action

1320 Jamesville Ave., Box 131
Syracuse, NY 13210

Phone: (315) 422-9121
Peter A Waite, Exec. Director

Literacy and Evangelism International

1800 South Jackson Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74107-1897

Phone: (918) 585-3826
Fax: (918) 585-3224
Executive Director: Rev. Sid Rice
Ministry email: [email protected]

PREDE —Program Regional de Desarrollo Educativo

Organizacion de Estados Americanos (OAS)
1889 F. Street NW
Washington, DC 20006


7 Place de Fontenoy
75700 Paris

World Education

210 Lincoln Street
Boston, MA 02111

Organizations in the Western Africa Division


P.P. 3311

Conseil Regional pour l'Education des Adultes et l'Alphabetisation en Afrique (CREAA)

Service National d'Alphabetisation
Ministere de la Sante Publique et des Affaires Sociales
B. P. 1247
Lome, TOGO

Organizations in the East-Central Africa Division

African Association for Literacy and Adult Education

Loita Street
P O Box 50768
Nairobi, KENYA

Phone: +254 2 22391
Fax: +254 2 340849

Institute of Adult Education

University of Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam

Organizations in the Euro-Africa Division

German Adult Education Association (DVV)

Deutsche Volkshochschul-Verband
Fachstelle fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit
Rheinalle 1
D-5300 Bonn 2

Regional Centre for Functional Literacy in Rural Areas for the Arab States


Oficina de Educacion Iberoamericana

Ciudad Universitaria
Madrid 3, SPAIN

Organizations in the Inter-American Division

ACPO—Accion Cultural Popular

Calle 20, No. 9-45
7170 Bogota

ALFALIT Internacional

Apartado 292

Alphalit International, Inc.

3026 NW 79th Avenue
Miami, FL 33122

Phone: (305) 597-9077
Fax: (305) 597-9078

CREFAL—Centro Regional de Educacion Functional en Americana Latina

Patzcuaro, MICH

Federacion Interamericana de Educacion de Adultos (FIDEA)

Apartado Postal 20016
San Martin
Caracas 102

Organizations in the North American Division

Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

1002 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20007

International Council for Adult Education

29 Prince Arthur Avenue

Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.

5795 Widewaters Parkway
Syracuse, NY 13214-1846

Phone: (315) 445-8000
Jinx Crouch, President

National Center for Family Literacy

Waterfront Plaza, Suite 200
325 West Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202-4251

Phone: (502) 584-1133
Sharon Darling, Pres.

Organizations in the South Pacific Division

Asian and South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE)

P O Box 1225
Canberra City, A.C.T. 2601

Dyslexia Learning Foundation

58-60 Queen Street, Windsor House 7th Floor

Stephen DeMent, Director

Organizations in the Southern Asia Division

Literacy House

Lucknow, INDIA

Literacy India Trust

Madras, INDIA

Indian Adult Education Association

17-B Indraprastha Estate
New Delhi 110002

Organizations in the Trans-European Division

Arab Literacy and Adult Education Organization (ARLO)

P O Box 3217
113, Abu Nawas Street

Organizations in the Southern Asia Pacific Division

UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Asia

920 Sukhumvit Road

Organizations in the South American Division


Asociacion Latinoamericana de Educacion Radiofonica
Corrientes 316 6º Piso Of. 655
1314 Buenos Aires