Hawaii Literacy

Hawaii Literacy

Hawaii Literacy’s mission is to empower Hawaii’s children and adults with essential reading, writing, and lifelong learning skills to strengthen themselves, their families, and our communities. For over 50 years, we have worked tirelessly to address the equity gap in education, health, digital access, and economic opportunities through proven programs

Hawaii Literacy

Hawaii Literacy’s mission is to empower Hawaii’s children and adults with essential reading, writing, and lifelong learning skills to strengthen themselves, their families, and our communities. For over 50 years, we have worked tirelessly to address the equity gap in education, health, digital access, and economic opportunities through proven programs and demonstration models in underserved communities. We understand the urgent need to support individuals and families with low literacy levels, especially in communities disproportionately affected by illiteracy and poverty. Over 94% of those we serve are very low-income, with 67% living in public housing, and around 12% experiencing or having experienced homelessness. Ninety percent of those we assist are Pan-Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI), with 63% identifying as Hawaiian or Part-Hawaiian. At Hawaii Literacy we believe that literacy is at the core of having the opportunity for a better life and that it is never too late for an adult to learn to read and write. We believe well-trained and dedicated volunteers can successfully teach adults to read and write. We believe that parents are their children's first and best teachers and that family support can help any parent, regardless of literacy level, help their child succeed. We believe that literacy builds stronger families and communities. We envision a Hawaii where equitable access to education, housing, employment, health access, digital access, prison reform, and more is possible through empowering our community with equitable access to literacy.

About the Organization:

Hawaii Literacy’s mission is to empower Hawaii’s children and adults with essential reading, writing, and lifelong learning skills to strengthen themselves, their families, and our communities. For over 50 years, we have worked tirelessly to address the equity gap in education, health, digital access, and economic opportunities through proven programs and demonstration models in underserved communities. We understand the urgent need to support individuals and families with low literacy levels, especially in communities disproportionately affected by illiteracy and poverty. Over 94% of those we serve are very low-income, with 67% living in public housing, and around 12% experiencing or having experienced homelessness. Ninety percent of those we assist are Pan-Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI), with 63% identifying as Hawaiian or Part-Hawaiian. At Hawaii Literacy we believe that literacy is at the core of having the opportunity for a better life and that it is never too late for an adult to learn to read and write. We believe well-trained and dedicated volunteers can successfully teach adults to read and write. We believe that parents are their children's first and best teachers and that family support can help any parent, regardless of literacy level, help their child succeed. We believe that literacy builds stronger families and communities. We envision a Hawaii where equitable access to education, housing, employment, health access, digital access, prison reform, and more is possible through empowering our community with equitable access to literacy.

organizational budget

$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION

existence for

31+ YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Hawaii

organizational budget

$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION

existence for

31+ YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

Hawaii

The Issue:

The issue our organization addresses is illiteracy. Literacy serves as the foundation for tackling issues such as housing, employment, health access, digital access, prison reform, and more. Overlooking the fact that individuals lack essential literacy skills undermines genuine equity in solving these complex problems.
In the State of Hawaii, approximately 155,000 adults, or 1 in 6, are considered "functionally illiterate." This literacy disparity is particularly pronounced among the AAPI population. Studies have shown that adults with low literacy skills are 10 times more likely to have low skills than those with higher-educated parents. They face the highest rates of unemployment, limited access to jobs and education, and an increased vulnerability to poverty (ProLiteracy). Furthermore, over 70% of incarcerated individuals lack basic reading and writing skills, significantly impeding their reintegration into society upon release (National Institute for Literacy, 2008).
In specific communities across Hawaii with a high population of AAPI, such as Kalihi-Palama, Waiʻanae Coast, and south Kona, illiteracy rates are estimated to be as high as 1 in 4 adults. Research on health literacy has shown that Filipinos, Other AAPI, Japanese, and Native Hawaiians disproportionately experience low health literacy rates compared to their white counterparts (Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, 2011).
Literacy plays a transformative role in all aspects of life, including personal development, educational attainment, economic opportunities, health outcomes, civic engagement, social interactions, cultural preservation, and technology adoption. It is a powerful tool that empowers individuals and communities, giving them visibility, voice, agency, and cohesion.
By equitably addressing the issue of literacy and providing individuals and communities with the necessary literacy tools, we can break down barriers that hinder progress. Empowering individuals with literacy skills allows them to make informed health decisions, navigate digital platforms effectively, pursue new educational and work opportunities, and break the cycles of recidivism and generational poverty. Literacy is a crucial component in achieving genuine equity and creating a society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
 

The Solution:

Hawaii Literacy is committed to advancing equitable access to literacy education for the AAPI community through a range of programs and initiatives. Our unique approach brings literacy directly to vulnerable individuals, families, and communities, reaching those with low literacy skills and empowering them to succeed.
Our Adult Literacy program provides personalized one-on-one tutoring, resources, and support to adults with limited literacy skills. In 2022, we trained 70 additional tutors who met with adults learners, enabling them to learn to read and write and achieve their life goals which impacts their families.
The Bookmobile program fosters a love for reading and lifelong learning. We bring books and literacy resources to underserved areas, serving over 7,000 youth and adults in 2022.Through our English Language Learner program, we offer language instruction and resources to enhance English proficiency. This program equips individuals with effective communication skills and enables them to actively engage in their communities. Last year, we provided over 8,200 hours of classes and tutoring to 170 learners.
Our Family Literacy Libraries in public housing sites promote family literacy by providing resources, books, story hours, and support to parents/caregivers. This program creates a literacy-rich environment at home and encourages family engagement. In 2022, the library had over 9,000 visits.
In the Digital Literacy program, we equip individuals with the skills needed to navigate technology and thrive in the digital world. In 2022, 146 adults participants developed digital skills enabling them to access online resources and engage in today's digital society.
Our comprehensive approach spans across individuals of all ages, recognizing that learning knows no age limits. From children (keiki) to elders (kupuna), we believe that everyone has the capacity to acquire literacy skills and unlock their full potential.
By promoting literacy, we empower individuals to be seen, heard, and united. We also recognize the broader societal benefits of increased literacy, such as short-term and long-term economic gains, improved educational outcomes, and enhanced workforce development. By addressing illiteracy, we can effectively tackle challenging issues like homelessness, poverty, and health disparities, while providing individuals and families with a second chance at a brighter future.

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