Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, is faced with a systemic issue that threatens the city’s economy and challenges the prosperity of individuals and families. It’s a disturbing statistic The Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy (MOAL) and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation) are hoping to change. The two have partnered to unveil Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint, a call for action and comprehensive plan for coordinated city-wide change to address alarming adult literacy rates.

The Blueprint delineates a first-time strategic and coordinated plan to ensure that more adults across our city receive a second chance in life through the development of strong foundational and digital literacy skills, as well as essential workforce skills needed to thrive in our global economy and society.

“One in every three adults in Harris County lacks the necessary skills to participate and fully engage in the workplace and society. While literacy is a fundamental right of every Houstonian, it has not been a reality for many adults in our city,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Houston’s Adult Literacy Blueprint prioritizes literacy  for adults, which is critical in strengthening our future workforce, the wellbeing of our neighborhoods, and the next generation of young learners. I envision a city in which every Houstonian has equitable access to the opportunities to gain the skills they need to succeed in life.”

The Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation worked together over the past five months to engage more than 100 cross-sector leaders from business, K-12 and higher education, nonprofit, government and others, as well as adult learners and instructors to inform and shape theBlueprint. The Blueprint outlines data and research on the pervasive low literacy rates among adults and implications on our city’s economy and people; articulates, goals, strategies and tactics to combat the adult literacy challenge; and calls upon our city to unite in changing lives and the future of our city through literacy.

“The Late First Lady Barbara Bush believed everyone deserves an equal opportunity to live the American Dream, and that if we don’t give everyone the ability to read and write, then we aren’t giving them an equal chance to succeed,” said Dr. Julie Finck, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. “In addition, according to a recent analysis commissioned by the Foundation with Gallup as part of the Blueprint development, our city would increase its annual Gross Domestic Product by $13 billion through helping adults with the lowest literacy skills increase their competencies by one level.We must act swiftly and purposefully to support increased literacy skills for Houston adults who deserve every chance to reach their fullest potential. We have an economic and moral imperative to do so.”

“Like public libraries across the nation have done for generations, HPL is proud to stand steadfast in the fight against illiteracy” said Dr. Rhea Lawson, Houston Public Library Director.  “I am honored to join the Mayor, MOAL, and our partners at  the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to launch the Blueprint for Adult Literacy – a magnificent  achievement in our city’s fight against illiteracy and a model for the country.”

One in three adults in Harris County is functionally illiterate and more than 130 million adults in the United States read below a commensurate fourth grade level, according to the most recent results from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) administered by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. Furthermore, there are pervasive racial disparities nationally with respect to adult literacy levels. Specifically, both Black and Hispanic adults are about three times more likely to have low literacy skills as compared to White adults.

Visit www.HoustonAdultLiteracy.org for more info.