Adult literacy and education is key to improving career outcomes for Trenton’s adults and children. According to research compiled by ProLiteracy, an adult literacy and basic education membership organization, children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. (National Bureau of Economic Research) These children typically struggle in the classroom, and are more likely to display behavioral problems, drop out, or fail a grade level. Adults with low literacy and numeracy levels higher rate of unemployment and earn lower wages than the national average.
To alleviate adult literacy barriers in in Trenton, the Mercer County Workforce Development Board, in conjunction with the City of Trenton, should expand upon existing programs in Trenton at Mercer Street Friends and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, as well as the statewide network Literacy New Jersey which houses a program in Hamilton, New Jersey. As a first step, the Workforce Development Board should consider funding increased services at local adult education providers while also support local social service agencies to add sustainable adult literacy services to their existing offerings. This approach enables literacy services to reach populations that do not currently have access to it – while they may benefit from this support – may not think to look for it.
After establishing a more comprehensive network of literacy services across the City, the Workforce Development Board could then explore a dual-generation approach to adult literacy and education, similar to the services offered at Literacy Partners in New York City. Dual-generation programs, which are currently being tested by leaders such as The Annie E. Casey Foundation, provide a holistic set of services to adults and children, recognizing that concentrating interventions at solely the parents or children may not maximize the amount of impact a program can have.