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.
- Is a tool for the evangelist—providing an ideal climate for conversion and church planting;
- Opens the pages of the Bible and other Christian literature to both non-Christian and growing convert;
- Is a door into nations and parts of nations where other types of missions are unwelcome;
- Provides a satisfying activity for local Christians who are eager to help lift up their own people to a better life;
- 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.
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.
—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
American Bible Society
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)
5300 Bonn, GERMANY
International Reading Association
Public Information Office
800 Barksdale Road
P O Box 8139
Newark, DE 19714-8139
Laubach Literacy Action
1320 Jamesville Ave., Box 131
Syracuse, NY 13210
Phone: (315) 422-9121
Peter A Waite, Exec. Director
Literacy and Evangelism International
PREDE —Program Regional de Desarrollo Educativo
Organizacion de Estados Americanos (OAS)
1889 F. Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
7 Place de Fontenoy
210 Lincoln Street
Boston, MA 02111
Organizations in the Western Africa Division
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
Organizations in the East-Central Africa Division
African Association for Literacy and Adult Education
P O Box 50768
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)
Fachstelle fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit
D-5300 Bonn 2
Regional Centre for Functional Literacy in Rural Areas for the Arab States
Oficina de Educacion Iberoamericana
Madrid 3, SPAIN
Organizations in the Inter-American Division
ACPO—Accion Cultural Popular
Calle 20, No. 9-45
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
Federacion Interamericana de Educacion de Adultos (FIDEA)
Apartado Postal 20016
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 India Trust
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