by Adam Wright
Executive Director
North Texas Regional Library System

Illiteracy is on the rise. According to the National Institute for Literacy, Texas has the second largest number of under-educated adults in the U.S with 23% of adult Texans reading at the lowest literacy rate. Five percent are unable to read at any level. Libraries are positioned perfectly to help with this growing problem. This is the topic of an NTRLS workshop this month as well as our next contribution to the Librarian Live Podcast.

There are several literacy programs available in Texas to help libraries with initiatives. Here is a sampling. I compiled this listing from the NTRLS workshop handouts and my searching on the web.

  • Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (http://www-tcall.tamu.edu/bbush/bbtf.htm) – This organization awards grants for family literacy programs that focus on teaching both the parents and children. The organization awarded over $250,000 for literacy programs in 2006. The Dallas Public Library was one of the award recipients in 2006. They do not have any guidelines for 2007-2008 yet, but I would check back on a regular basis.
  • Dollar General Literacy Foundation (http://www.dollargeneral.com/community/dgliteracy.aspx) – Dollar General has been giving out grants for adult literacy programs and family literacy programs since 1993. Last year, they gave out over $3 million to 277 organizations (4 library groups). You have to send them a letter to receive their RFP. On the letter, make sure to include your organization's name, contact name, and mailing address. Send the letter to: The Dollar General Literacy Foundation, P.O. Box 1064, Goodlettsville, TN 37072-1064.
  • Verizon Foundation (http://foundation.verizon.com/03001.shtml) - Literacy is one of the Verizon Foundation’s main funding priorities. Verizon gives over $70 million a year and receives over 60,000 applications. The interesting aspect of this foundation is that they only accept applications online. You can apply at any time for any amount, although the average grant is between $5000 and $10,000. The Foundation does a wonderful job explaining all of this on their website.
  • Wal-Mart and Sam’s Foundation (http://www.walmartfoundation.org/) - The Community Grants program is a very large program that all non-profit community groups can take advantage of. I am sure you have been hit by Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts selling materials outside Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart will often match these fundraising activities. This is a great way for your Friends group to raise money for your library’s literacy program.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has designated literacy one of its overall priorities for 2008 to 2013. With this in mind, NTRLS will be focusing some of its efforts on building a literacy program to serve all of its member libraries. TSLAC recently gave NTRLS permission to seek external grants for this purpose. It is our hope that we will interest some community groups, like LIFT, to partner with us. NTRLS would work with this community group to establish a set of literacy classes which can be taught at the member libraries. These classes would be offered to any library in the NTRLS geographic area. Libraries would need to host the classes on a regular basis.

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Original Publication Date: 
October 1, 2007
Legacy Article Number: 
282