National Academies Press

In the adult education field, we know that while "virtually everyone needs a high level of literacy in both print and digital media to negotiate most aspects of 21st century life — succeeding in a competitive job market, supporting a family, navigating health information, and participating in civic activities," millions of adults in the United States "lack the literacy skills needed for fully productive and secure lives."

Here is research to help us work with this reality.

At the request of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Research Council "convened a committee of experts from many disciplines to synthesize research on literacy and learning in order to improve instruction" for adult education learners in the United States.

The 2012 result, Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research:

  • "Synthesizes the research on literacy and learning" for "individuals ages 16 and older who are not in K-12 education"
  • "Identifies factors that affect literacy development in adolescence and adulthood in general, and examines their implications for strengthening literacy instruction for this population"
  • "Discusses technologies for learning that can assist with multiple aspects of teaching, assessment, and accommodations for learning"
  • "Recommends a program of research and innovation to validate, identify the boundaries of, and extend current knowledge to improve instruction for adults and adolescents outside school"

"The book is a valuable resource for curriculum developers, federal agencies such as the Department of Education, administrators, educators, and funding agencies." However, it is also 504 pages long. Thankfully, the National Academies Press produced two booklets based on the original report, available to read online or as free printable PDFs:

  1. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Developing Reading and Writing (28 pages)
  2. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Supporting Learning and Motivation (35 pages)

The above text is quoted or adapted from the National Academies Press description of Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research, at

About the National Academies Press (from

"The National Academies Press was created by the National Academy of Sciences to publish the reports of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States. The NAP publishes more than 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and medicine, providing authoritative information on important matters in science and health policy. The institutions served by the NAP are unique in their ability to attract leading experts in many fields to join panels and committees charged with providing policy advice on some of the nation’s most pressing scientific, technical, and health-related issues."

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