Mission & History
Improving lives by providing leadership, support and a statewide voice for adult and family literacy efforts.
All people in Wisconsin have the literacy skills to reach their full potential.
Wisconsin Literacy was founded in 1985 as an all-volunteer coalition comprised of adult, family and workplace literacy providers with the mission of supporting each other through information sharing, referral, advocacy, resources, and training.
In 1987, Wisconsin Literacy incorporated in the state of Wisconsin, originally as an affiliation of Laubach literacy providers.
In 1992, the organization changed to allow all community-based adult, family and workplace literacy providers to join.
In 1994, Wisconsin Literacy, Inc. was officially registered as a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Its Board of Directors was composed of the executive directors and program coordinators of its member organizations.
From 1985 to 2002, without any paid staff, Wisconsin Literacy successfully convened an annual Adult Literacy Conference for 60-100 participants to share instructional and program management strategies, hosted an annual Celebration of Literacy to recognize adult learners and the programs that serve them, published a newsletter to share information, and provided mentoring and training to new adult literacy programs.
In January 2003, with its membership having grown to 36 adult, family and workplace literacy providers statewide, Wisconsin Literacy hired its first executive director with a $50,000 grant from Verizon. With staff consistency and sustainability, growth came quickly to this small organization. Key partnerships with the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Department of Public Instruction and Community Shares of Wisconsin and Greater Milwaukee provided crucial support, which in turn increased Wisconsin Literacy’s capacity to share more resources with its member literacy agencies throughout the state.
In January 2006, with support from the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Department of Public Instruction, four regional literacy consultants were hired to help member agencies build their capacity to serve adult learners.
In 2004, 2007, 2009, and 2011, Wisconsin Literacy held a Health Literacy Summit, putting the organization on the map as a national leader in the field of health literacy.
To meet the demand for health literacy initiatives, a new division of Wisconsin Literacy launched in 2010 called Health Literacy Wisconsin. A full-time Health Literacy Coordinator was hired and a new website dedicated solely to health literacy information was created, www.healthliteracywisconsin.org.
Wisconsin Literacy's undertaking of major local, state and national efforts in health literacy has opened many doors to critical partnerships between health care and literacy. These collaborations are improving health outcomes of adult learners in Wisconsin while assisting the health care field with more clear and effective methods of communicating so that everyone can understand medical information and make good decisions about their care. Working to equip literacy agencies with resources to deliver workplace and computer literacy skills to adult students is a primary focus for these challenging economic times when many face unemployment. Advocacy at the state Capitol and in the U.S. Congress continue to ensure that policy makers understand the strong connection between the literacy services of Wisconsin Literacy’s member agencies and improved health and employment outcomes for Wisconsinites.
Wisconsin Literacy’s coalition is made up of 77 community-based literacy agencies throughout the state. Wisconsin Literacy continues to work to raise awareness of the impact of low literacy on Wisconsin’s economy and the benefits of providing adult literacy services to the state’s businesses, families and communities.