Learn How to Read for Adults
In many impoverished countries, illiteracy is a barrier that holds people back from higher-paying jobs and more fulfilling opportunities. Illiteracy is a key factor in the continuing cycle of poverty—generation after generation locked in privation. Classes that share how to learn how to read, for adults or children, create a practical solution to a solvable problem.
It is estimated that over 250 million women in Asia today are unable to read and write.1 Many of these women long to become literate and fulfill hopes and dreams; literacy classes are a practical way to help them.
A survey conducted by GFA World’s Women’s Fellowship in Nepal found that almost all the women in their fellowships and churches have a desire to read the Bible. Sadly, more than 60 percent are illiterate.2 These women’s fellowships stepped into action. Thirteen teachers from eight different churches came together with a great goal of educating the women in their churches in the basic skills of reading, writing and simple math. These women then returned to their villages to share their new teaching skills with other women in their communities.
GFA literacy classes teach participants to learn how to read, for adults in particular, but they also teach participants how to write and perform basic math skills. When adults learn these valuable skills, they are less likely to be taken advantage of in the marketplace. They can also understand street signs, maps, contracts, rental agreements, food labels, prices on items and more.
Jeni is a great example of the positive impact of a literacy class.
For years, she would wonder what the squiggly lines meant on her grandson’s homework. She knew they represented letters and words, but could not decipher their message. Jeni was never able to attend school as a child, and she longed for the opportunity.3
Jeni became the sole provider of her family in her 20s when her husband became ill. She learned to sew and managed to earn enough to barely get by. Jeni became a grandmother and was still unable to read and write. She says, “Sometimes my grandson and granddaughter asked me to help with their schoolwork, but I did not know what to do.” She also longed to read the Bible but was unable to.
Three GFA missionary women approached her and invited her to a literacy class. She timidly agreed. After the first lesson, Jeni was excited and longed for the next class. Learning to read and write was finally within her reach.
Jeni persevered and learned diligently as the women taught her how to identify letters. Soon, those strange squiggles that she had seen on her grandson’s paper began to make sense.
Jeni became a great recruiter for the free literacy classes, and other women began to attend with her! Within 6 months, Jeni could read and write. Jeni’s daughter shared,
“I am very happy that my mother is able to read and write now by the help of women missionaries. These days, she is able to negotiate with the shopkeepers and writes her signature.” Jeni is so proud that she is no longer illiterate.
What methods do these “learn to read” programs for adults use to make significant change in participants’ lives?
GFA missionaries receive training in teaching adult literacy—reading, writing and basic math skills. After completing a course, a student can read basic language. Many students are also qualified for higher-paying job opportunities. These classes not only teach participants how to learn how to read and spell, for adults especially, but they also teach basic math skills to improve their quality of life.
The teachers write letters, often using a chalk board, to teach letters and words. They often guide the student’s hand and teach them how to hold a writing utensil to write those same letters and words. It can be a frustrating process since the skills are completely new to the students, but once they begin to understand, they are excited to continue to learn.
Illiteracy remedies are powerful. When adult students complete the lessons, they can become more of an active member of society by having confidence in the marketplace, helping their children, and have higher income opportunities. UNESCO shares how important literacy is in changing a community:
“The ‘multiplier effect’ of literacy empowers people, enables them to participate fully in society and contributes to improve livelihoods. Literacy is also a driver for sustainable development in that it enables greater participation in the labour market; improved child and family health and nutrition; reduces poverty and expands life opportunities.”4
1 “Over 250 Million Women in Asia Are Illiterate.” GFA World. Accessed 26 February 2022. https://www.gfa.org/resource/detail/over-250-million-women-asia-are-illiterate.
2 “Women Teaching Women.” GFA World. March 29, 2010. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/women-teaching-women.
3 “Unlocking the Door of Literacy.” GFA World. Accessed 23 February 2022. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/unlocking-the-door-of-literacy/.
4 “Literacy.” UNESCO. Accessed 23 February 2022. https://en.unesco.org/themes/literacy.