1. Why are adult literacy rates so low in third world countries?

Many adults have never had the opportunity to attend school. Instead, as children, they are expected to enter the work force to help the family survive.

2. What is involved in establishing an adult literacy program?

Survey of needs, development of primers, training of teachers, establishment of program, development of new reader materials, supervision of classes/program.

3. How does adult literacy differ from teaching children to read?

Adults must be motivated by a desire to read something; they must see some benefit to themselves before giving the time and effort to learn. Often a strong motivation is the desire to read God’s Word. Adults need positive feedback and may stop attending classes if they are embarrassed by their teacher and classmates. Materials must be appropriate to adults and their interests. Adults learn best with phonetics, not with rote memory. Adult literacy usually requires 6-12 months rather than the years required for children to learn the language and then to read. Adults already know the language and just need to learn to associate the written symbols with the sounds.

4. Why is it important to teach people to read in their mother-tongue language?

People only learn to read once and it is easiest when they learn in their mother-tongue language. Because they are most familiar with their own language, they can anticipate what comes next in each phrase and sentence.

5. What is involved in training literacy teachers?

An intensive one-week training session, or even two or three days, can be enough for teacher-trainees to learn the methods and to practice. Usually a WORD consultant leads the training sessions. New readers who have completed the literacy course make excellent teachers. Teachers are normally volunteers who view literacy work as a means of serving the Lord and also as evangelistic outreach.

6. How long does it take to write primers? What is involved?

If the preliminary study of the language, collection of data, and preparation are all completed and a qualified team is involved, the basic primer lessons can be written in two weeks of full-time effort. In order for the lessons to be culturally appropriate and the language to be natural, stories used in each primer lesson are written by the team rather than being translated from another language. Letters and combinations are introduced phonetically one or two at a time and are practiced in each lesson. Later, other lesson materials including drill boxes and word lists will be added and artwork will be completed. Where it is permitted, the primers have Bible content, including Scripture verses and Bible stories. These lessons provide good opportunity for the teacher to share the Gospel.

7. What are new-reader materials?

When a student has successfully completed his study of the primer lessons, he has learned to read and write all letters and letter combinations of that language’s alphabet. He still needs to practice these skills by reading easy materials that are of interest to him. New-reader materials, sometimes called bridge materials, allow him to polish his skills while reading materials that he wants to read: Bible stories, cooking tips, agricultural information, whatever motivates him to continue to read. As the student progresses, the print size becomes gradually smaller and the amount of text per page becomes greater. It is important that sufficient quantities of new-reader materials be available so that those who complete the primer lessons can be “bridged” into reading more difficult printed materials, including the Bible.

8. What are transition primers (bridge primers) and how are they used?

Transition primers, which are sometimes called bridge primers, are designed for those students who already know how to read, but do not know how to read their mother-tongue language. This often occurs where the national language is taught in public schools but the student’s mother tongue is a tribal language. These bridge primers teach the letters, with their corresponding sounds, that will be new to the reader as he attempts to read materials in his mother-tongue language. This process is normally accomplished much more quickly than someone learning to read, often in just a few weeks.

9. How much does it cost to establish a literacy program?

Costs can be minimal, especially when teachers volunteer. Some expense is involved with the workshops to construct primers and to train, transport, house and feed teachers as well as workshop participants. The greatest expense is usually the printing of primers and new-reader materials. Costs vary according to location and situation.

10. How can literacy help in church-planting efforts?

When church members learn to read, they can read and study God’s Word for themselves. This enables them to grow into strong Christians, becoming more active in the ministries of the church. In addition, literacy is a wonderful outreach program for the local church. Bible-based primers are used with great success around the world as an evangelistic outreach tool. No Bible translation project is complete without an accompanying literacy program. Having God’s Word available in one’s mother-tongue language is of limited benefit to those who cannot read.

11. What training is available for those interested in literacy work overseas?

Excellent training in literacy work, both for overseas and in the US, is available from Literacy and Evangelism International in Tulsa, OK. Their website is Another good source of literacy training for overseas work is SIL (Wycliffe Bible Translators

12. How can I help?

- The need for literacy workers world-wide is great. Ask God if He would have you become involved in adult literacy work in the US or overseas. There are many good training programs available. LEI in Tulsa offers a wonderful summer training session. See above for their web address. Contact us for information about specific WORD literacy projects and the personnel needs.
- Help to fund literacy programs. Many times primers are developed but funds for printing are not available. Sometimes funds are needed for teacher-training seminars and program establishment. Contact us for information about specific WORD literacy projects and the funding needs.
- Pray for the specific projects listed on our website. Pray that God will raise up more literacy workers and the funds needed to meet the great need world-wide. Pray that God will use you to help meet the need. Pray for those who are learning to read, that they will be able to read God’s Word for themselves.

Contact us for more information about how you can help WORD Ministries.

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