Citizen Literacy

Imagine living in a world of written words you do not understand?

The Citizen Literacy Team is supported by the Ufi VocTech Trust, Nesta The Innovation Foundation, and the Department for Education. What they do is develop resources and services to support teachers help adults improve their reading and writing skills. The current programme partners are City of Glasgow College (Lead), Scottish Union Learn, Micro-phonics Ltd., ReachWill Ltd., Claire Collins Consultancy Ltd., and TRT etc Ltd. The programme is being led by staff from the Learning and Teaching Academy and Faculty of Education and Humanities at the City of Glasgow College.  

The overarching aim of the Citizen Literacy project is to:

  • Support adults who are beginner readers and writers to develop their basic literacy skills
  • Support adults who are beginner readers and writers to improve and develop their digital literacy skills
  • Develop an accessible digital tool for adults who are beginner readers and writers that is grounded in effective, evidence-based practices for literacy learning
  • Contribute valuable knowledge and understanding regarding how appropriate use of technology can help adults who are beginner readers and writers to develop their literacy skills
  • Further understand the impact of improved literacy skills; for employers, for educators, and for adult literacy learners in their everyday lives and practices.

The Citizen Literacy app (available on Google Play and Apple App Store – is primarily focused on improving adult literacy for those who are already fluent speakers of English, as opposed to supporting the development of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). This is an important distinction to make; the educational task of teaching an adult who already speaks English to improve their reading and writing abilities is a very different one from teaching ESOL, although it can be hard to distinguish an ESOL learner from an adult literacy learner (e.g. If someone was brought up in an English-speaking country but speaks another language in the home). Nevertheless, ESOL learners may also benefit from some of the tools and resources that have been produced by the team.

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Key findings from the evaluation include:

  • Opportunity to engage in low-stakes, bite-sized literacy learning is appreciated by beginner literacy learners.
  • Flexible opportunities for adults to continuously practise and develop their literacy skills are particularly welcomed by learners, and teachers are able to utilise learners’ enthusiasm for the app to devise and in some instances, co-create blended learning opportunities.
  • Literacy difficulties restrict learners’ everyday activities, movements and routines (using the app helped to reduce these restrictions)
  • There is an immediate and urgent need for age-appropriate adult literacy resources, a need that the app helps to meet.
  • The critical role of learning advocates in engagement and support for literacy learning (including trusted friends/ family members, teachers, community support workers, union project workers and others).
  • We have seen that use of the app is mediated in most cases by such advocates and we also note that our evaluation process was shaped by the knowledge that beginner literacy learners cannot read significant amounts of text, and so needed to be reached through verbal means, mediated in many cases by advocates.
  • How use of the app has helped to strengthen literacy learning relationships.
  • The importance of acknowledging beginner adult literacy learners’ needs when undertaking an evaluation, in so far as text-based questionnaires are not appropriate. Advocates have a key role to play in brokering spoken interviews [HK4] (both to complete questionnaires and to undertake deeper, open questioning) and, also, sharing adult literacy learners’ experiences.