The route women on public assistance take to literacy




Lybrand, Delinda Sue Dent

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The purpose of this study was to discover and analyze what effects the route and the acquisition of literacy skills through participation in adult education classes had upon the lives of women on public assistance. And to determine if the acquisition of literacy skills made a difference, or did these women's lives remain static, caught in their web of poverty, low esteem, and hopelessness?

The following four questions guided the research: (1) What occurs in the route toward literacy of women who are on public assistance? (2) What obstacles/opportunities do these women face in becoming literate? (3) What changes occur in the families of these women once they have become literate? (4) What changes occur in these women's self-perception as they gain literacy skills? The researcher adopted a participatory/interview/case study approach so that the reader could actually hear and see what the women had to say in their own words about their routes as they became literate. It is through the findings of this research that a better vehicle may have been found to help women and their families to break the cycle of illiteracy, poverty, and to improve their own self-images.

The women who were in the study were in a special educational setting where churches, corporations, and government agencies were working together to help them become literate. Six women were chosen from 50 women attending the Academy. The six women were chosen because they met two criteria: they represented the various levels of literacy and they also exemplified the four categories of the definitions of illiteracy, conventional literacy, functional literacy, and advanced literacy.

The data was collected over a 21-month period of time. The researcher did in-depth formal interviews, surveys were given to each woman, oral histories were collected and analyzed, formal interviews with family members and other faculty members, artifacts were collected, and field notes were recorded and transcribed.

The researcher found that the six women in the study all had different routes to literacy but yet there were many similarities. The women saw changes in how their families viewed them after gaining literacy skills. They also found that many of their family members decided to come to the Academy to gain literacy skills. The six women found that there were several obstacles and many were common to all the women. They also found that there were opportunities afforded to them once they began attending the Academy and gaining literacy skills. The six women all had positive changes in their self-images.



Social sciences, Education, Reading education, Adult literacy