Literacy Skills Free for Adults and Families!

Now more than ever, literacy skills are the most essential (and overlooked) life skills

Literacy skills determine the success of individuals, communities, societies and the global community.

Strong skills can lift a person out of poverty, improve health and well-being, enhance neighborhoods and communities, improve employability and productivity, develop and grow an economy, and innovate a path to a brighter future.

Our ability to thrive, individually and collectively, begins here …



a. 14 Ways to foster a love of books and reading

b. 18 Activities to explore sounds, letters, and words

c. 12 Naming and Storytelling activities

8. Promoting Adult Literacy - Build extraordinary skills for free

1. The Key to a Better Life and a Better World

Strong skills can lift a person out of poverty ...

... keep them out of prison, improve their health and well-being, enhance neighborhoods and communities, improve employability and productivity, integrate new immigrants, develop and grow an economy, and innovate a path to a brighter future.

Alternatively, weak skills can limit, isolate and endanger individuals, diminish and divide communities, debilitate and drain societies, and undermine and break apart the global community.

Literate individuals have the skills they need to develop their knowledge, meet their potential, and achieve their goals

Literacy skills, nurtured in homes, schools and communities, affect every aspect of daily life in a variety of ways. They'll help an individual navigate and participate in their community:

  • Read signs, newspapers, advertisements, tickets, timetables, prescriptions, labels, recipes, menus, manuals, maps, emails, websites, magazines, and books
  • Converse with family, friends, neighbors, assistants, staff, customers, colleagues, dentists and doctors, ask for and understand directions, order food, make phone calls, participate in discussions, give speeches and lectures
  • Fill in forms, use search engines, participate in on-line communities and groups, participate in elections, take courses, gain certification, text, tweet, write notes, articles, poems, songs, blog posts, letters, cards, emails, and books
  • Listen to the radio, podcasts, and music, watch videos, television and movies, enjoy theater and other performance arts, use Skype and Face-time

And these are just a few activities, that create bonds, feed minds and imaginations, and lead to satisfying and productive lives.

Literacy, however, is not the ultimate goal …

Just as food, shelter and clothing aren't goals themselves, but a means to reduce hunger and discomfort, literacy itself is not the goal, but rather the means to a better life. The strength of a person's literacy skills will determine their path in life. That's because reading, writing, speaking and listening, these essential skills, underpin almost everything we do.

Consider the various skills one relies on throughout a lifetime…

  • As children develop, an appreciation for reading, writing and verbal expression is key
  • When gaining an education, learning and study skills are key
  • When working with others, communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, leadership and presentation skills are key
  • When achieving a fulfilling life: decision making, goal setting, time management, organization, stress-management, problem

solving, and possibly parenting skills, are key

Imagine attempting to acquire all the skills that have just been listed without the benefit of literacy skills!

Not only are the skills themselves essential, the capacity to develop all other life skills rests on these four

Proficiency has a far-reaching impact on performance, productivity, progress, and potential.

2. More than just Reading and Writing

What is Literacy? 

People with satisfactory literacy skills can access, understand, and evaluate, written, printed, and oral communication, and can create and communicate, as well as receive, accurate, coherent and original insights.

Literacy skills used to be defined narrowly as reading and writing skills. A recognition that these skills are integrated with the other language skills has led to a broader definition that includes speaking and listening.

Due to changes in technology and culture, there has also been a shift in the way language literacy is demonstrated. It is now recognized that individuals must possess not only an ability, but also a confidence and willingness to use their skills in many different contexts at a level appropriate to their development and needs.

While the discussion here today, at, pertains to language literacy, there is an every growing list of additional skills that are often included under the umbrella of literacy skills. As you see, to the right, each of the additional skills listed rely, in some way, on the more fundamental skills of reading and writing, listening and speaking.

Types of Literacy Skills

Originally the term literacy related to literature and dealt with the ability to read and write text. The term now includes knowledge and competency in other fields such as the ones illustrated above.

4 sources of Literacy Skills motivation

The Key to a Confident Future!

According to Dean Graziosi, best-selling success author, the realization of an individual's goals and dreams relies on their  courage, commitment, confidence, and capabilities.

All four characteristics are inextricably linked. The courage to make mistakes comes from confidence. The willingness to learn from mistakes comes from commitment, and the ability to recognize and overcome mistakes comes from capabilities, which in turn boosts confidence.

All four characteristics are linked, and necessary for success. However, the first three listed above, confidence, courage and commitment, are not only boosted, but sustained, by the fourth one, capabilities. Confidence, unless it's misplaced, springs from, capabilities. Capabilities get the ball rolling, and help to maintain the necessary level of courage and commitment.

What capabilities create confidence, build courage and commitment, and above all make the realization of goals and dreams possible? Literacy skills, the ability to read, write, speak, and listen well, underlie the development of all other capabilities. How else would we discover what we need to know, learn from others to hone our skills, continue to progress over time? Literacy skills, more than anything else, provide a secure foundation to support success in all other endeavors.

3. Significant New Trends

Literacy skills hold much power and promise. We've known for a long time the human, political, social, cultural, economic and health benefits literacy confers, [For more information on the global impacts, and importance of literacy click here SOURCE#1

So, what is the outlook for the future?

The way the world learns and works has never looked quite the same ...

The challenges, innovations and opportunities are boundless. How we meet those challenges, incorporate those innovations and embrace those opportunities may well determine our survival on the planet. But let's not limit ourselves. Let's ask instead, "how will we flourish into the future?" As individuals, communities and cultures we have a responsibility to put our backs into the work ahead. Promoting literacy is recognized as one of the most significant, cost effective, ways to improve lives and futures.

Our need to respond to new challenges brought on by changing conditions continues to grow ...

Three Significant New Trends Impacting Literacy

A. Populations are on the move

To be literate, one must understand, communicate, learn, and participate fully in the wider community, using the resident language.


  • Currently, approximately 258 million people live in a country other than their country of birth - an increase of 49% since 2000.
  • Not only are 3.4% of the world’s inhabitants international migrants, in high-income countries, the percentage of migrants has risen from 9.6%  in 2000 to 14% in 2017.  SOURCE #3

B. The world of work is changing.

A shift from manual labor, farming, and resource extraction to service and technical sector employment is underway.


  • While employment in industry remained relatively stable between 1994 and 2010, rising from 22.9% to 24.2%, employment in agriculture dropped from 40.6% to 30.7%, and employment in the service sector rose from 36.5% to 45.1% (according to the World Bank  SOURCE #4)
  • The employment outlook from 2015 to 2020 shows a global shift from manufacturing and production, office and administration, and construction and extraction, to architecture, engineering, computer and mathematical jobs. SOURCE #5

C. The literacy playing field is changing.


  • The proliferation of information, much of it unreliable, places ever increasing demands on those who access it. According to, "more data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race." SOURCE #6
  • No longer are literacy skills something acquired only in grade school. Literacy is now recognized as a lifetime endeavor. There are approximately 1,000,000 words in the English language, and according to the Global Language Monitor, approximately 1 new word is added every 98 minutes. SOURCE #7

4. Levels of Development

Language skills begin with the spoken word which includes an awareness of speech sounds or phonology. The next skill level includes the written word, and an understanding and use of the following: spelling patterns or orthography, patterns of word formation or morphology, word meaning or semantics and vocabulary, patterns of sentence structure or grammar and syntax, and on to patterns of paragraphs and compositions.

Throughout years of schooling, primary, elementary, and secondary, on through skills training, college and university, then throughout a working life, and into retirement, the needs and demands of individuals change. Nevertheless, one thing is constant, good literacy skills are necessary throughout. They help a child succeed at school, an adult succeed in their career, a parent succeed in supporting their child's learning, and a retired person continue to live a rewarding life.

More demanding literacy tasks require more sophisticated skills

Throughout a person's development, a continuous, consistent, expansion of skills and comprehension encompassing each area is desirable. It's expected that, over time, information received and communicated will continue to broaden in scope. Vocabularies increase. Reading and writing tasks become longer. Sentences become more complex. Concepts become more technical, interrelated and abstract. Interpretation of images extends from simple illustrations to charts, graphs and tables. Skills continue to advance until fluency is reached in all aspects of language learning, and functional literacy is attained and then surpassed.

Take a closer look at the core skills that underlie the key skills …

Depending on their age and level of development, learners will become familiar with:

  1. Upper and lower case letters in both script and print and on the keyboard
  2. All vowel and consonant sounds and blends
  3. Single and multiple letter combinations that form the spellings that stand for sounds in words
  4. Word forms, such as roots, affixes, prefixes and suffixes
  5. Correct use of types of words including verbs, nouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions
  6. Sentence formation and structure including word order and punctuation in simple, compound and complex sentences
  7. Relevant vocabulary for the level of attainment and subject matter covered at school, work or play
  8. Compositions of all types, structures, and lengths, from fiction and nonfiction to reports and studies, and notes

But it's not all about the dots; it's about connecting them ...

Literacy Skills from Letters and Sounds to Words, Sentences and Compostions

5. Integrated Multi-Sensory Learning

Depending on your role, some things will be beyond your control when it comes to building literacy skills

According to PISA, the 'Programme for International Student Assessment', which tests literacy in three competence fields every three years, the following impact literacy: school characteristics, family background, gender, education systems and funding, national income and income equality. #8 SOURCE

That being said, whether you are a parent, teacher, tutor, administrator, or an individual wanting to improve your own skills, you can play the most important role of all. Keep reading to discover what you can do to ensure literacy skills can prepare learners to enter school, ensure they thrive at school and continue to support learners after leaving school. (Then I'll show you how I can help you!)

The best way to acquire literacy skills is through integrated 

multi-sensory learning

This type of skills acquisition suits all learning styles.

It also serves as the very best way to consistently reinforce learning. Worksheets, workbooks, and computer based learning, cannot be relied on to promote skill acquisition to the same degree. These methods don't integrate all four skills in a multi-sensory way. They can only ever offer an incomplete picture.

Image showing multi-sensory development of literacy skills

6. The Best Way to Develop Literacy Skills

Learning should reflect the skills themselves

Reading and writing, listening and speaking, all skills matter equally, and are interconnected and interdependent. Educators have a responsibility to honor those connections, and always give learners an opportunity to learn in an integrated way.

This is why …

Imagine you're eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and maintaining your ideal weight. You'd probably be pretty healthy and productive, right? Now take one or more of those four habits away. What will happen? You'll see a downward shift in your health and well-being. It's unavoidable. All four life habits matter. What's more, they impact one another.

It's the same with literacy skills. All four skills are necessary, and under-performance in any one skill negatively impacts the others. That's the first reason they need to be considered as a whole, not piecemeal. The second reason is that multidimensional learning suits every learning style so no learner ever loses out.

Too often, we think of literacy skills in a one-dimensional way, and don't make the necessary connections between skills

It's time to embrace reality! Not only are the skills themselves complex, the way they develop, and overlap, is multifaceted!

So language learning needs to look like this…

It doesn't matter whether a learner is working on spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, composition, comprehension, grammar, enunciation or pronunciation.

They should be hearing, speaking, seeing, and writing in order for learning to take hold!

They should not just be gazing at a video, computer screen or lecturer. Nor should they just be punching letters on a keyboard or soundlessly filling in the blanks on a worksheet or in a workbook!

Let's look at this another way …

Good speaking skills are more likely to result from listening than speaking. For example, imagine a child saying the word 'apple' if they've never ever seen an apple or ever heard someone say the word. It's impossible to imagine!

That's because much necessary learning comes from participating in the passive skills such as listening, as well as active skills like speaking. In the same way, speaking skills rely on listening, writing skills rely on reading. Since we need to observe and experience what is correct before we can duplicate it, good use of vocabulary and grammar will rely on listening and reading as much as anything else.

By observing and mirroring good practices we gain more than is possible by simply practicing one of the skill areas. There is a good reason for this. If you think about it, practice that's full of errors just reinforces bad habits. If we can mirror good practices, and build habits around them, our path forward will be smooth and steady, rather than one step forward two steps back!

Passive and active learning go hand in hand

Of course, active learning must immediately follow passive learning! That's the only way learning will be remembered and perfected. The two go hand in hand. As much as possible, especially in the early years, each of the four quadrants should be considered to some degree at all times. If any one type of activity is neglected, skills will suffer.

7. Promoting Early Literacy Skills

We learn by doing, but not in the way you think …

A child doesn't learn to crawl by crawling. They learn to crawl by doing everything that leads to crawling until they have the strength, coordination, and balance, necessary to begin crawling. In the same way, a reader doesn't learn to read by reading, or learn to write by writing. They do everything that leads to reading and writing until they know enough about sounds, letters, words, and sentences, to perfect reading and writing.

What follows are 3 types of early literacy activities and 45 ways to encourage the growth of skills ...

A. 14 ways to foster a love of books and reading:

  • As soon as possible, set aside special times to read daily.
  • Choose books you both like.
  • Encourage your learner to choose their own books at the local library, ask them what they like and why.
  • Continue reading only when motivation remains high.
  • Build awareness of how books work, where to start, reading from left to right.
  • Get your learner involved in turning pages (make sure pages are easy to turn).
  • Find opportunities throughout the day to read signs, labels on boxes and bottles, posters, pictures, cards, signs, and lists.
  • While your learner listens, read to them, choral read (out loud together), listen while they read to you.
  • Read picture books, story books and magazines, and encourage discussion. Ask your learner what they liked, what they didn't like and why.
  • Enjoy riddles, jokes and cartoons, and encourage drawing and write captions.
  • Read rhyming stories and choral read the rhyming words out loud.
  • Vary your purpose: read for pleasure,  for knowledge, to discover what happens next.
  • Have your child tell a story in their own words. Write it down. Read it back to them.
  • Read yourself to show you value reading.

B. 19 Activities to explore sounds, letters and words:

  • Explore shapes and colours before exploring letters. Name them, describe them, play matching games, and ask your learner about them.
  • Encourage drawing (with crayons, sticks in the sand, paint and playdough) and tracing shapes
  • Help them write the first letter of their name, the rest of their name. Ask them to say the name of each letter and to read their name out loud.
  • Explore certain letters by reading alphabet books that have pictures of things beginning with particular letters.
  • Help your child cut out pictures from magazines that represent certain letters Make a collage, and write, or have your learner write, the letters beside the pictures.
  • Point out letters, name them and discuss their shapes, their height, special features.
  • Point out upper and lower case forms of letters (but focus on lower case), and have your learner talk about the differences.
  • Read an alphabet poem that helps them learn letter shapes, and air draw the letters together.
  • Link letters to sounds, by holding your finger under them as you read. ('s' says the snake!) Encourage your learner to say the words and make the sounds.
  • Draw your finger under words that you're reading out loud, beginning with the most common words, say them, and encourage your learner to repeat them.
  • Encourage your learner to count items, number them, and total them.
  • Sing the alphabet poem, read alphabet cards, and encourage your learner to practice putting letters in alphabetical order.
  • Break bigger words into syllables, by exaggerating the breaks between the parts.
  • Point out sounds at beginning and ends of words, and encourage your learner to repeat them.
  • Show that letters can make more than one sound: was/has vs. us/bus and eat great bread. Encourage your learner to say and compare the sounds the letters in these words make.
  • Point out that more than one letter can be used to spell a sound, eventually showing that 3 or 4 letters can made a single sound as in sigh or though. Underline the spellings for sounds and ask your learner to count the letters.
  • With your learner, write words in the air, in sand, on paper, and shape them with play-dough, Plasticine or clay.
  • Use any excuse to write, and have your learner write: names, lists, notes, messages, stories, diaries, cards, books.
  • Play word games together.

C. 12 Naming and Storytelling Activities:

  • Encourage babbling cooing, and talking, by talking and listening (at dinner, at play, in the car, on a walk).
  • Name things: people, objects, feelings, and events, and encourage naming.
  • Point out rhyming words and encourage rhyming.
  • Learn nursery rhymes, and all kinds of rhymes and songs, and say them together.
  • Point to common words, then less common words, and listen while your learner says them.
  • Write out new words and discuss them together.
  • Use different words to explain the same thing and ask your learner to do the same.
  • Use descriptive words. Describe things, and events and encourage your learner to do the same.
  • Draw connections between things and ask your learner to do the same.
  • Ask questions …  (especially questions that need more than one word to answer) What does this make you think of? What colours do you see? How do you think it got here? Tell me more …
  • Encourage questions as well! (When you're tired of questions, write them down for later)
  • Talk about time, and the sequence of events. Tell them what will happen in the next hour, tomorrow, at a certain place … Make predictions. Ask, "What do you think will happen next?

8. Promoting Adult Literacy Skills

Literacy skills build up slowly over time through learning and life experiences

Early literacy can be promoted by the methods listed above. Functional adult literacy will develop over time. Learning will progress relatively smoothly only if learners are afforded the opportunities they need. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

As we've seen, functional literacy is the result of many puzzle pieces being grasped, contemplated, and fit into place. Despite best efforts however, puzzle pieces can go missing along the way. As a result, not everyone gets the experiences they need to build the literacy skills they require.

What's Next?

When progress stalls, performance lags, and productivity suffers, it's time to intervene!

Luckily, there are ways to fill skill gaps so everyone gets the necessary help. What's more, there is no need to send anyone back to the drawing board when skill gaps appear. These can simply be identified and filled if you know how.

The best solution is to discover the most basic, most fundamental gaps, and fill those first

Once underlying skill gaps are filled, progress is trouble free. It's like putting shoes on bare feet before walking over rough stones. Once you've smoothed out the bumps, progress is  quick and easy!

Over the last twenty years, I've created a simple, quick, free and easy way for learners and their helpers to fill literacy skill gaps. A series of quizzes uncover skill gaps and guide learners to customized resources - tips, tricks and tools that lead to new knowledge, skills, and habits.

Would you like to fill gaps in your skills, or help someone, or many someones, fill gaps in their skills?

The entire website at is dedicated to your needs!

Please CLICK on the following link to go to the HOME PAGE

and choose the kind of help you need.

First, we'll determine what type of help you require.

Then we'll build a customized learning plan or program depending on your needs.

There is skill-building help to suit every budget and circumstance! Do you have a computer and a printer? We can work with that. Do you only have a cell phone? No problem!



#1   Source UNESCO "Why Literacy Matters"

#2  From The New York Times "Literacy builds life skills as well as Language Skills"

#3   Source U.N. International Migration Report

#4   Source "16 Trends Shaping the Global Economy"

#5   Source "Future of Jobs 2016"

#6  From "Mind Boggling Facts Everyone Must Read"

#7   From / "How many words enter the English language each year"

#8  Source UNESCO Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development  2960581.pdf "Literacy Skills for the World of Tomorrow"

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