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Dollar General Literacy Foundation Identifies Key Areas to Prioritize

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In partnership with the Barbara Bush Foundation, The National Center for Families Learning and Reading Is Fundamental, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has been investing in literacy and education programs for nearly three decades with the goal of serving others in a way that uplifts and empowers. And while the foundation is proud of the work they have done so far, Denine Torr, executive director of DGLF and vice president of corporate social responsibility at Dollar General, said they recognize there is much more to do.

Closing out National Reading Month, DGLF has released its state of American Literacy Research Report, which identifies four key impact areas to prioritize in order to help break the cycle of low literacy. The research was commissioned through PSB Insights, the global insights consultancy, to gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities that exist and collected insights from 1,200 students, parents, teachers, adult learners and experts in adult and youth literacy.

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Almost overwhelmingly, a majority of those surveyed (80 percent) said they believe low youth literacy is a problem in the U.S. And the problem has worsened. Nearly three-quarters of teachers surveyed reported they were teaching mores students now who have difficulty reading than before the pandemic.

Among K-12 educators, a lack of staffing — especially reading specialists and tutors — ranked among the top challenges faced. Additionally, about a third of teachers said they do not have adequate professional development resources to support delivery of reading instruction.

The report also found a large and frequently overlooked group in need of literacy solutions in the U.S.: adults. According to the company’s research, more than 40 million U.S. adults face literacy challenges, which often lead to a cycle of low literacy within families and directly impacts many elements of success in life.

When asked about issues impacted by the pandemic, adults listed the “ability to improve reading and writing skills” as a top issue, ahead of both maintaining emotional health and finances.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has set back many in their education and literacy learning efforts and threatens to deepen the literacy crisis,” Torr said. “We know the devastating impacts of low literacy on an individual’s quality of life — limiting opportunities for advancement in the workforce, access to higher education, engagement in civic activity and even effects on health. Through our research, we are better able to understand the needs of the field and empower teachers, students and communities to harness the power of literacy and education at this critical juncture.”

Notably, a silver lining found in the report was technology, as many instructors have become more adept at virtual instruction. With investments in new tailored tools that now exist for online and blended learning, there is an opportunity for increased access with more flexibility that caters to the busy schedules of adults, parents and their children.

With these findings in mind, the DGLF has announced $5 million in immediate grants across five national organizations, including Save the Children, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, DonorsChoose, Discovery Education and the Children’s Defense Fund, to further support students and educators.

The four key impact areas that the foundation will target include professional development, accessible adult learning, high-quality reading instruction and volunteer tutors.

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