ProLiteracy champions the power of literacy to improve the lives of adults and their families, communities, and societies.
We envision a world in which everyone can read, write, compute, and use technology to lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives.
ProLiteracy was born in 2002, when Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America merged. But our roots reach back to 1930 and one man’s belief that literacy could change the world.
1930-1955: Laubach Literacy emerges to promote global literacy
Laubach Literacy International's history begins in 1930, when Dr. Frank C. Laubach was a missionary among the Maranao people of the Philippines. His concern about their poor living conditions led him to conclude that the ability to read and write was essential for them to begin to solve their problems. As the Maranaos learned to read, they would, in turn, teach other adults on a one-to-one basis that became known as "Each One, Teach One." From 1935 to 1967, Dr. Laubach visited 105 countries answering calls for literacy help and created reading lessons in 315 languages. He founded Laubach Literacy International in 1955.
1961-1962: Literacy Volunteers of America forms to tackle the U.S. crisis
For years, literacy as a global mission interested Ruth J. Colvin. She had heard Dr. Laubach speak about illiteracy in faraway countries, but she didn't consider it a problem in America. So she was shocked when she read a 1961 Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper article stating that more than 11,000 people in Syracuse, N.Y. couldn’t read or write well (based on 1960 U.S. Census figures). She began speaking with local social service agencies, community leaders, and church groups about the problem. With the help of reading experts, she developed a means to train volunteers to tutor adults. In 1962, she started Literacy Volunteers of America in her basement.
1963: New Readers Press begins publishing adult literacy instructional materials
When Dr. Laubach's son, Dr. Robert Laubach, was in high school in Manila, Philippines, he learned to set type and run the printing press that produced reading material for people in Laubach Literacy programs. He then went on to create a literacy journalism program at Syracuse University. Out of that work, he started New Readers Press. It officially became part of Laubach Literacy in 1967. Today, New Readers Press has grown to become a leading resource for adult literacy, publishing more than 150,000 instructional titles for adult learners and their teachers, including the nation’s oldest news source written in plain English, News for You.
2002: Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America merge
As two of the world’s oldest and largest adult literacy organizations, Laubach Literacy International and Literacy Volunteers of America often partnered on projects and programs. After years of working closely together, the two venerable organizations made a strategic decision to join forces. The merger created an expanded national network of literacy programs, new international initiatives, and more educational opportunities for adult learners everywhere.
2012: ProLiteracy expands its services and moves to Syracuse’s Near West Side
As ProLiteracy continues to grow, the organization has sought new opportunities to fulfill its mission in today’s high-tech, globally competitive society. Moving to a modern, sustainable space in the heart of a developing neighborhood is all part of that plan. From its new headquarters, ProLiteracy helps adult learners in the community while simultaneously developing cutting-edge programs and services that can bring better literacy services to millions of people around the world.
View details and images of our new building. Watch video from our grand opening celebration.