Literacy for All

9, 10, 11, 12

The purpose of this lesson is for students to learn about literacy in our world, nation, state and their local community. Students reflect on dramatic statistics about literacy rates and access to books, then they create a plan of action to increase access to reading materials.

PrintOne 45-minute class period

The learner will:

  • listen to statistics about literacy.
  • discuss the statistics and reflect on their feelings about literacy in the world, the nation, the state, and their local community.
  • form a plan of action to improve community literacy and access to books.
  • Current literacy facts from a credible online source, such as the following: 

  • Two wall signs, with the words True and False in large letters


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students what literacy means. If they are unsure, provide them with a definition: The National Literacy Act of 1991 defines literacy (in the United States) as "an individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential."

  2. Introduce students to the True/False activity. Explain that you will read a series of statements. They must decide whether they think a statement is true or false. They will stand by the sign that reads True or False to show their opinion about the truth of the statement.

  3. Read aloud the literacy facts one by one (some should be reworded to be false so that students will have to think about the facts). Find the latest facts online (see bibliography above).

  4. When the students are standing by the True or False signs, ask a few students to share why they chose the True or False. Give the correct answer and discuss the fact before reading the next.

  5. Read the following statement last, as if it were the final fact to which they respond true or false:

    "We should all do our part to ensure that all people have access to books, thereby helping to increase literacy rates in the world, nation, our state and in our local communities." 
  6. Discuss how helping others gain literacy is good for everyone. Define common good as something that is good for everyone. Introduce the term enlightened self-interest. This is the idea that we do things for others because it ultimately helps us.

  7. Discuss what they learned from the activity. Ask them how hearing these statistics made them feel, how they think these statistics apply to them, and why they think the illiteracy rate in our country is so high.

    Ask the students what they could do to help others in the community gain literacy skills and exposure to books. Have them think about the question for a minute before they turn to a partner and share their thoughts. After two minutes of partner conversation, brainstorm ideas as a whole class about how to take responsibility for increasing literacy for some children in the local community. Write a list of their ideas.

  8. In the brainstorming, the teacher may suggest holding a book drive and mentoring children as reading buddies.

  9. Follow student voice through this unit to design a service project based on this brainstorming session. The following lessons guide the class in planning and carrying out a book drive in order to provide children in the community with books.


Observe students during the activity and brainstorm/pair-share activity for active participation.

Cross Curriculum 

This unit is designed to accompany a book drive.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Build a case for giving, explaining why resources (volunteers and money) are needed.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.