The challenges are eloquently and strikingly described in this extract from an American research report proposing a National Action Plan for Adult Literacy in the USA:
“The work of teaching literacy skills to adults is overlooked and undervalued.
The field of adult basic education, which includes literacy instruction, receives far less attention in academia than early childhood, K-12, or tertiary education. Thus, there is not only a lack of data and research—which means a paucity of high-quality, evidence-based instructional resources—but also a lack of investment in professional development for adult literacy instructors, most of whom are part-time or volunteer and few of whom receive competitive compensation. The lack of competitive salaries and professional development opportunities deter many promising teachers from entering the field, as does the dearth of proven, accessible training materials.
For these reasons, access to adult literacy programs has not significantly improved over the past few decades”
NATIONAL ACTION PLAN FOR ADULT LITERACY 2021
Barbara Bush Foundation
These observations apply equally well to the UK and the rest of the ‘developed’ English-speaking world. This is not inevitable, there are alternatives. Due to the structural and systemic nature of these challenges, no single organisation (as the American report observes) can hope to solve them alone.
Our contribution to a solution to improving adult literacy is to develop and share the high-quality, evidence-based instructional resources and the proven and accessible training materials for tutors that the Bush Foundation report identifies as an urgent need – it is something we can do in the here and now as a small non-profit company. More funding for community adult education, improving pay for tutors, and research are also desperately needed and are in the realm of activism for social change. The design of our resources and materials is directly informed by our experience and knowledge of the challenging circumstances that adult literacy tutors and learning providers are working under. Our work is strongly influenced by the progressive educational ideas of thinkers and teachers such as Paulo Freire, John Comenius, and Louise Michel.
Our programme is designed to be adopted, adapted, and delivered by others in a wide range of contexts – not ourselves – the aim is for our learning and training resources to be integrated into existing provision and support new initiatives. We aim to provide a structured yet flexible educational design that can be delivered as it is, or adapted to learners’ needs and community settings (which we strongly encourage). To help support this localisation approach we provide a free downloadable Personal Learning Plan (PLP) template from the Resources page of our website our website that tutors can use to create a learning plan that fits the needs and interests of each learner.
You can find a more detailed description of the programme in the Prospectus Page of this website. The programme starts with complete beginner readers and over the course of 90 lessons takes learners to a good level of functional reading and writing skills. The aim is to support tutors to help adults make rapid progress in their literacy skills and gain confidence as they go. The programme consists of 90 lessons split into 3 Parts, each part having 30 lessons with every fifth lesson being a formative assessment. In Part 1 of the programme the 44 phonemes of the English language are introduced with different ways of spelling them in words. By the end of Part 1, lesson 2, learners are starting to read and write simple sentences. This is made possible by the highly effective use of free and open digital resources for the learners and economically priced printed and digital materials for tutors and their learners to use in ‘class’. The Tutor Handbooks for the programme provide a supportive introduction to the programme, training materials for new tutors, and detailed lesson plans broken down into small chunks linked to the Workbooks and the free learner app.
Citizen Literacy takes learners forwards simultaneously across a broad number of topics quickly to give confidence and provide the practical applications of useful functional skills. These are the skills we seek to develop in our learners:
- Phonics – blending (i.e., Phonological Awareness and Letter Correspondence)
- Decoding – breaking down
- Speaking (Fluency)
- Alphabetical Awareness
By the end of the programme learners will be able to continue their own literacy development, enter further education, or take vocational training. The Citizen Literacy programme is not directly linked to any particular national or regional curriculum, because it is intended as a worldwide educational resource. You can find more detailed information about the programme in our Prospectus page including indicators of educational levels for each of the three parts of the programme that can help you see which parts of the programme may best support your own local curricula.
We aim to provide as much support to tutors as possible, especially those volunteers and mentors who wish to become adult literacy tutors themselves. To meet this need many of our instructional resources are also dual purpose and can fulfil a tutor training function. The tutor training aspects of our instructional resources, where applicable, are identified in detail in each resource description. We have free training materials for tutors showing them how to use our printed and digital learning resources. We have also collected a useful set of free training materials for new literacy tutors. These are all available from our Resources web page
The tutor handbook and the free learner app combined with the Tutor Hub provide useful training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) resource for tutors who are new to adult literacy teaching or the use of structured phonics methods. Tutors who subscribe to the Tutor Hub get access to a range of powerful literacy tools and training materials including an interactive phonics dictionary with over 300,000 words and authoring tools. In addition to this, we are pleased to make available an in-depth and very clear guide to using phonics methods with adults. It is called ‘POST-16 PHONICS APPROACHES: A TOOLKIT’, and has been written by some of the leading literacy researchers and practitioners in the UK, it published by the Education and Training Foundation. It is freely available as a PDF file to download from this link. We strongly recommend using all these print and digital resources in parallel to develop individual and organisational expertise and capacity in delivering effective adult literacy development interventions. Please note our training materials are not intended to replace any literacy training schemes based on phonics that are available to existing or new tutors, but rather to fill the gaps in existing support systems and help people prepare for further training if they desire it.
We have created an integrated, yet flexible, set of learning resources to support tutors and their learners and tutor training materials. You can find out more details about them on our Resources page, current costs are on our Pricing page. Here is a short summary followed by brief descriptions:
- Learner Web App –smartphones / multiplatform – Free
- Downloads for Tutors for use in class and for CPD training – Free
- Tutor Handbooks – Print available from Amazon – Digital as part of Tutor Hub
- Learner Workbooks – Print available from Amazon
- Tutor Hub Online Service – annual subscription
- Handbooks / Bookmarks / Lesson Customisation
- Connected Learners: Tutor > Learner messaging and activities via app
- Custom Word Activities: Tutor authoring tool for the app
- Phonics Dictionary / Pronunciation Coach: 300,000 + words multimedia
Learner Web App
The revolutionary Citizen Literacy learner web app (a website designed to run well on smartphones, laptops and computers). The app supports the face-to-face lessons of the programme, and is one of the first to offer independent learning opportunities for adult literacy learners and helps to accelerate learner progress.
There is a dedicated tutor handbook for every 10 lessons in the programme – 9 handbooks in total, suitable for both experienced and new literacy tutors. With a clear and friendly introduction to the programme and its rationale to rapidly orient tutors to the approach and methods used in the programme. There are detailed lesson plans that are broken down into exercises with step-by-step lesson plan activity guides and teaching tips to get tutors up and running quickly.
Learner Workbooks, each one covers a set of 5 lessons with exercise resources that are linked to the lesson plans in the tutor handbooks. The workbooks provide a space for Learners to write, collaborate, record, reflect on their work, and for Tutors to examine. The workbooks are priced to make them an economic proposition for learning providers.
This is a subscription service for tutors and learning providers that provides high-quality instructional resources and accessible training materials for tutors. It includes digital versions of all the Tutor Handbooks for the entire programme (9 in total) with lesson plans and tutor notes, with the ability to bookmark and create custom exercise sequences. There is also a searchable multimedia phonics dictionary and pronunciation coach with over 300,000 words. The phonemes in each word are broken down and spoken by an actor, and the graphemes display the IPA symbols – a useful tool for ESOL / ESL tutors. The Hub also unlocks extra features in the learner app including the ability to send voice messages to learners, author custom app activities and record, manage and share learner records for administration and funding purposes.