Literacy is an essential prerequisite for all kinds of learning and human development. It enables people to live full and meaningful lives, and to contribute towards the enrichment of the communities in which we live. By literacy we mean the ability to read and write at a level whereby individuals can effectively understand and use written communication in all media (print or electronic), including digital literacy. In the knowledge-based societies of the 21st Century, the rapid spread of new technologies and a constantly changing work environment, literacy learning is no longer limited to childhood and adolescence but must be recognised as a lifelong need and requirement.
In Europe one in five 15-year-olds and nearly 55 million adults lack basic literacy skills. Not only does this make it difficult for them to find a job, it also increases their risk of poverty and social exclusion, limiting opportunities for cultural and civil participation, lifelong learning and personal growth. The European Commission recognises that there has been little improvement in literacy in the last 15 years. Yet, with affirmative action, we can make a difference.