What Do Organizations Need to Know about How to Teach Adult Literacy?

Children come to learning with a sponge-like ability to quickly grasp new concepts and build on those ideas. Our ability to learn decreases as we age, not due to ability but because of the physical changes to our brains, such as brain cell loss and shrinkage, inflammation and lowered blood circulation.1 Adults also have a mind full of information and experiences upon which to add new information.

When considering how to teach adult literacy, the Reading Patch recommends four key ways to help an adult learn to read:


  1. Build rapport. This can be a humbling experience for an adult, and it’s important to be a trusted peer in the process.
  2. Use proper materials. Find and use materials that work for adults instead of repurposing children’s materials.
  3. Build confidence. Start with what they know in order to give them the confidence to build on that knowledge.
  4. Proper pacing. Adults may need different pacing and more individualized plans than using a read-aloud group plan.2

The Reading Patch authors explains,

“Teaching adults how to read has a whole different set of challenges than teaching a child to read. The key is to keep building confidence, being supportive, and encouraging them to read.”3

GFA World’s Women’s Literacy program is changing lives through this same relational approach. In 2018 alone, nearly 62,000 women learned to read and write through GFA’s program. More importantly, their curriculum is full of Scripture, so as women learn to read and write they also learn eternal truths. Participants also learn basic math skills, which give them practical skills for the marketplace and understanding how to manage money.

Each woman in a GFA literacy class is given her own workbook, which is often highly treasured by the class participant. Lessons include hygiene, first-aid and value-based teachings from Scripture, practical and helpful topics. Taught by GFA missionaries, women in these classes experience the love of Jesus Christ along with their literacy training.

Your gift to the GFA World’s literacy program offers a path to new beginnings for women who often have never had the opportunity to receive an education. It’s a hope that they can experience practically and spiritually through your support. From miles away, you can show your love and care to these women and, through them, their families.

Learn more about adult literacy program

1 “How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking.” NIH National Institute on Aging. October 19, 2020. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-aging-brain-affects-thinking.
2 Karle, Madreen and Mousaw, Meeghan Karle. “How to Teach An Adult to Read.” Reading Patch. September 13, 2020. https://readingpatch.com/how-to-teach-an-adult-to-read/.
3 Karle, Madreen and Mousaw, Meeghan Karle. “How to Teach An Adult to Read.” Reading Patch. September 13, 2020. https://readingpatch.com/how-to-teach-an-adult-to-read/.