Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Laubach Literacy Association is Founded

This year, after more than two decades of work in the literacy field, Dr. Frank C. Laubach (1884-1970) founded Laubach Literacy International, a nonprofit, educational corporation.  Laubach was a leading pioneer of the contemporary adult literacy movement. Through his efforts as an educator, communicator and organizer, millions of poor and disenfranchised people around the world were empowered to improve their lives through literacy.  

In 1930, Dr. Laubach was a missionary among the Maranao people of the Philippines. He was deeply concerned about the overwhelming poverty and injustice they suffered, and became convinced that the ability to read and write was essential for them to begin to solve their problems.  Using a basic instructional approach, Dr. Laubach found that even the most impoverished people could gain control of the written and spoken word. He discovered the potential of volunteers, as newly-literate Maranaos taught adult learners through a one-to-one instructional program that became known as "Each One Teach One."  Dr. Laubach also demonstrated that literacy is an effective means for positive community mobilization and change.  

Over the next forty years, Dr. Laubach visited 103 countries in an effort to bring literacy to the "silent billion." His teams of visiting and local literacy workers tirelessly field-tested teaching materials and techniques in the search for effective methods of teaching illiterate adults. A prolific writer and accomplished speaker, he wrote forty books on prayer, literacy, justice and world peace, and inspired congregations and community groups across the United States with his vision of a better world.

By 1955, Dr. Laubach was ready to institutionalize the “Each One Teach One” approach and he founded Laubach Literacy. The organization enables illiterate adults and older youths to gain the listening, speaking, reading, writing and math skills they need to solve problems they encounter in daily life; to take full advantage of opportunities in their environment; and to participate fully in the transformation of their society.   It also provides support for both the tutors and the learners through local “literacy councils.”

Laubach's program incorporated the phonics-based training, as opposed to the whole language method of teaching English (for more information on these two approaches see

Today, Laubach Literacy Action (LLA), the Program Division of Laubach Literacy, is the largest volunteer-based literacy organization in the United States.  It has over 1,100 local member programs throughout the U.S., and provides a full range of literacy services to more than 170,000 students annually.  Instruction is provided by a network of nearly 90,000 volunteer trainers and tutors who donated almost 6 million hours in 1999-2000.

The publishing division of Laubach Literacy, New Readers Press, distributes 500 books and other educational materials to 30,000 literacy programs, libraries, schools, prisons, and religious organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Laubach Literacy International has partner programs teaching people in over 1,000 communities in 36 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.  Laubach Literacy of Canada is the Canadian affiliate.  It was incorporated as a non-profit, charitable organization in 1981, although the first Laubach tutor training workshop in Canada was held in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia in 1970.  Laubach Canada now has about 9,600 trained tutors, 8,300 students and 155 Literacy Councils.

It was on behalf of the world's neediest people that Dr. Laubach spent his life and boundless energies, and he moved hundreds of thousands to join him in service to humanity. His work left an indelible mark on the twentieth century and offers messages of hope to future generations as they carry on the work of building a literate, just and peaceful world.


Prepared by Dorothy Aaron (OISE/University of Toronto)

November 2001

Citation: Aaron, Dorothy (2001). 1955: Laubach Literacy Association is Founded. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: (date accessed).

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