Your Name and Title:

Federico Salas-Isnardi, Director, Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy

Library, School, or Organization Name:

Houston Public Library

Co-Presenter Name(s):


Area of the World from Which You Will Present:

Houston, Texas, United States

Language in Which You Will Present:


Target Audience(s):

Librarians, Administrators, Literacy stakeholders

Short Session Description (one line):

The Houston Public Library played a critical role in the creation of a Mayor's Office for Adult Literacy and has supported an innovative approach to addressing low functional literacy from an equity perspective. 

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

In 2019, the Mayor of Houston created the Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy (MOAL) to advocate for adult literacy services throughout the city and develop an adult literacy awareness campaign. The mayor asked the Houston Public Library (HPL) to provide oversight of the new office, understanding that libraries must play a leading role in a community’s literacy.  This arrangement has given the MOAL access to the library’s leadership, support, and resources and has given the HPL a significant role in shaping adult literacy in the city without providing direct literacy services.  At this time, MOAL remains the only mayoral office dedicated to adult literacy in the nation, and we work with a network of approximately 40 institutions that provide adult literacy services.

The MOAL envisions a Houston where every individual can obtain the skills necessary to prosper and reach their full potential. 

According to data from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), 1 in 3 adults in Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, functions at the lowest levels of literacy.  The problem of low literacy is reflective of systemic inequities in access to education, health and housing resources, digital skills, and connectivity.  MOAL, with full engagement of the Houston Public Library, and in partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and over 100 other businesses, educational institutions, public agencies, and community-based organizations, developed and wrote a Houston Adult Literacy Blueprint which the Mayor of Houston officially adopted in June 2021 ( The blueprint presents a definition of functional literacy conceived as the interaction of 5 foundational skills within 3 literacy domains, and it identifies 7 strategic goals to address the challenges of low functional literacy based on the premise that low literacy is a matter of persistent systemic inequity affecting generations.  MOAL has engaged a large number of stakeholders to support adult literacy providers in the city and has initiated far-reaching conversations about adult literacy’s impact throughout the community including the family, the workplace, mental health, and digital equity.

A welcome outcome of the city's and library's leadership is the significantly increased attention to adult literacy in the media, in public discourse, and in strategic planning for other initiatives. After the adoption in Washington of a National Action Plan for Adult Literacy, Houston's MOAL model has been called a model for the nation and an incubator of innovative solutions.  Now, in response to inquiries from other cities, the MOAL is sharing a “blueprint for the blueprint” as a starting place for other communities to consider similar efforts around adult literacy.

I will share a brief history and rationale for the creation of the MOAL and talk about the relationship of the office with the Houston Public Library.  Then, I will show a few graphic representations of our literacy landscape and the concept of Functional Literacy we use, before talking about how the goals of the blueprint are being implemented throughout.  We will end by sharing a few of the lessons learned before taking questions from participants.

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session:

Federico Salas-Isnardi



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