Adult Literacy for Life

Image of person who wrote blog.
Adele McElhinney

In September 2021 Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris launched Adult Literacy for Life, a national ten-year adult literacy, numeracy and digital literacy strategy. But what does this mean for us here in Co Donegal? In this blog, our Regional Adult Literacy Coordinator Adele McElhinney tells us more about it.

The literacy rate in Ireland is lower than you think – more than 500,000 people have unmet literacy needs ( Even more have unmet numeracy and digital literacy needs. This means they may be unable to fill in a form, vote, read instructions on medicines, add up a bill, help children with homework or search the internet for information. This can negatively impact their confidence and prevent them from participating fully in society. ​

The Adult Literacy for Life (ALL) strategy, together with Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service, aims to ensure that by 2030, no one is excluded, isolated, marginalised, or stigmatised due to unmet literacy, numeracy or digital literacy needs. As a Regional Literacy Coordinator, I am passionate about making this a reality in Donegal.

Adult Literacy for Life takes a whole-of society approach and is dedicated to making sure every adult in Ireland has the necessary literacy skills to meet their needs, at every level of society.

Literacy is more than reading and writing. ​Literacy is being able to understand, use and act on information. It involves listening, speaking, reading, writing, numeracy and using everyday technology and the internet to communicate and handle information. ​

Bridging the literacy gap is something we can all do.​ It’s our most effective, achievable tool for change. It changes lives, families and communities. We all have a role to play in ensuring everyone can participate fully in society.


Literacy Awareness training is being rolled out across various platforms in Donegal and is a key element to bridging this gap. Everyone in society should be aware that people may be struggling to read and understand the information that is being shared with them. Being aware helps you to be more supportive. The training also gives you the skills to know how to approach the topic with someone and how to be more literacy-friendly in your everyday communications. If you or your organisation would like to avail of this free training, contact me on 086 0843284 or

Table with contact detailsSupport

Classes for anyone who wants to improve their literacy skills are provided through our Further Education and Training (FET) Service. A broad range of courses are available at various times and locations across the county. No one ever regrets taking the first step and asking for help. We also welcome volunteers to help facilitate one-to-one classes for anyone who isn’t ready to join a small group at the start. You can contact your local Further Education and Training Centre to find out more.

Regional Coalition

Large group of people standing on steps at the front of a building.
Regional Literacy Coalition at their first meeting in September 2023.

A Regional Literacy Coalition has been set up in Co Donegal with key stakeholders from across society working together to bridge the gap and reach those who are most in need. The first meeting took place on 14 September and representatives included:

  • Citizens Information
  • Department of Social Protection
  • Donegal County Childcare Committee
  • Donegal County Library
  • Donegal ETB
  • Donegal Family Resource Centres
  • Donegal Intercultural Partnership
  • Donegal Local Development Company
  • Donegal Travellers’ Partnership
  • Donegal Volunteer Centre
  • Home-School Community Liaison Coordinators
  • HSE
  • Inishowen Development Partnership
  • Muintearas Thir Chonaill

This coalition will work together to lower the number of adults with unmet literacy needs. An action plan will be developed, with the key element being collaboration across services.

Collaboration and Innovation Fund

Adult Literacy for Life has a Collaboration and Innovation Funding stream to support agencies who want to come together and take an innovative approach to reduce the unmet adult literacy needs. Projects successful in 2023 are currently running innovative programmes. Donegal Travellers Project, Donegal County Library and our FET service have started two courses with Traveller women. The participants will write a children’s storybook and create a storybag with resources to help bring the story to life. Capturing the rich culture and storytelling that exists with the Travelling community, while also building literacy skills. Family Resources Centres have teamed up with Home School Community Liaison Coordinators and our FET service to run a course called ‘Nourishing your Literacy and Numeracy in a Digital Era’ in six different locations. Adults will learn how to understand recipes, use weighing, measuring and conversion for cooking and become more aware of healthy eating practices.

Literacy changes lives as Stephen highlights in this video. We all have a part to play. Get in touch today to find out more and how you can play your part.