Lesson 1 - Adult Literacy in Illinois Illinois State Library


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Leland, 39 years old, faces difficulties with maintaining sustainable employment. Having struggled with reading, he did not complete his education beyond 10th grade. Leland dreams of going to college someday. One day, a friend tells him about a local literacy program. Leland visits the program to ask for help with reading. He works with a volunteer literacy tutor to improve his basic reading skills.

Question for consideration as you work through this lesson

What programs are available in Illinois that offer assistance for adults who wish to improve basic literacy skills?

Key Point

Throughout Illinois, conservatively, there are about 2 million adults who have similar situations to Leland. They struggle with their basic literacy skills. In order to fully understand how adults like Leland can receive assistance, learn about how literacy initiatives are funded and supported in Illinois.


  1. How are literacy initiatives funded in Illinois?
  2. How many different types of literacy programs are offered in the state of Illinois?


Adult literacy encompasses many areas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, about 2.3 million Illinois adults lack the basic reading, math, and writing or language skills to function effectively at home, at work and in the community. Secretary of State Jesse White's Illinois State Library's Literacy Office provides the Adult Literacy Grant Program so that Illinois adults age 17 and older who read below the ninth grade level will be able to access the educational services they need. The Literacy Office offers three types of grant programs to suit the educational requirements of adults, parents, and employees. The services are designed to increase the learner's reading, writing, math, and English language skills so that the learners can participate in the family, work, and community roles they enjoy.

The Literacy Mission

The mission of Secretary White's Literacy Office is to enable agencies in Illinois to offer services to help Illinois adults and their families who read at the lowest levels to increase their reading ability in English. Since 1986, when the State Library's literacy program began, thousands of adults have improved their reading, writing and language skills through projects funded with literacy grant dollars. Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White is committed to providing literacy program services that will enable Illinois citizens to fully participate in the family, work and community roles they enjoy.

To this end, the State Library's Literacy Office administers grant programs that provide basic literacy services to enhance reading, math, writing or language skills for targeted program participants. These direct-service grants are awarded through an annual competitive application process. The office also supports the Illinois Adult Learning Hotline, a statewide referral system which links prospective students or volunteers to local literacy and adult education programs.