House and Senate Adult Literacy Resolution Roundup

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) is introducing a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the second full week in September as National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. (As a D.C. resident, I was pleased to see that Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is a co-sponsor of the resolution.)

If you would like to ask your member of Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor as well, the National Coalition for Literacy (NCL) has all the information you need in order to make that ask. The deadline is tomorrow, July 31st.

In addition, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have introduced a similar resolution in the Senate, and are also looking for co-sponsors among their Senate colleagues. For this one, the deadline is Wednesday, August 1st. For some reason, I can’t find this information on the NCL web site, but here is an e-mail NCL sent out last week with some helpful instructions on how to contact your Senator about it:

Senate Alert: Invite Senators to Cosponsor Resolution Dedicating National AEFL Week 2012!

Recently, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a senate resolution dedicating the week of September 10, 2012 as National Adult Education & Family Literacy Week! Already Jim Webb (D-VA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have signed on as cosponsors to this measure. Would you like your U.S. Senator to support adult education and family literacy by cosponsoring this resolution?

If so, then please call his or her office today, requesting your U.S. Senator sign on as a co-sponsor.  Deadline to co-sponsor: Wednesday, August 1st


  1. Call your U.S. Senator’s office. Ask to speak to the legislative staff who covers adult education. Find the phone number here:
  2. Ask, “Will you please ask Senator __________________ to cosponsor a Senate Resolution recognizing the week of September 10 as National Adult Education & Family Literacy Week? The deadline to officially sign on as a cosponsor is August 1.”
  3. To cosponsor, legislative staff should call Jordan Smith on Senator Murray’s staff or Peter Oppenheimer on Senator Alexander’s staff. Offer to send the staffer acopy of the draft resolution.
  4. Talk about why it is important for the Senator to show his/her support as well as the success of local programs and impact of adult education in local communities. While NCL shares the “national picture” with Congress, only you have the local and personal story.
  5. Follow up as appropriate.

Also worth noting: Congressman Hansen Clarke (R) and Tim Scott (D), both of Michigan, introduced a House resolution at the very end of last month “[e]xpressing the sense of the House of Representatives that bolstering literacy among African-American and Hispanic men is an urgent national priority.”

The resolution, if approved, would, among other things, “affirm the goal of reducing adult illiteracy by 50 percent in these target populations and by 25 percent throughout the United States” over the next ten years; encourage local, State, and Federal agencies—as well as the private sector—to engage in “literacy promotion initiatives;” and encourage Federal agencies and private firms to support community-based organization programs and the use of trained volunteers to work with the target populations. (my emphasis).

Congressman Clarke also wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on Friday advocating for increasing resources for adult literacy programs—but without mentioning any specific support for legislation that would actually increase federal funding for adult literacy. Here are his recommendations:

First, rather than reducing school hours and facilities due to budget cuts, we must keep our schools open later and reopen libraries to serve students who are struggling to read. Second, we should boost funding for community-based organizations like Reading Works and ProLiteracy Detroit that provide adult literacy training. Such programs are understaffed and oversubscribed, with 74 percent of organizations nationally maintaining waiting lists. Third, we should reform our prisons to give inmates the tools they need to become successful members of the workforce. We can start to do this by providing more resources to teach literacy in prisons and by rewarding inmates who read more.