Adult literacy

What is literacy?

Literacy is more than just reading and writing. Literacy skills include listening, speaking, using numbers and using everyday technology.

We all need literacy skills to communicate, access services, and make informed choices. Literacy skills help us to enjoy a good quality of life within our families, in our communities and at work.

Did you know?

  • If you think you could improve your reading and writing skills, you are not alone. 1 in 6 Irish adults finds reading and understanding everyday texts difficult.
  • Many people would like to be better with numbers. 1 in 4 Irish adults has problems doing maths.
  • Almost half of Irish adults do not have the digital skills they need to use everyday technology.

This means that everyday tasks are difficult for a large number of people. These can include:

  • Filling in forms
  • Paying bills
  • Helping children with their homework
  • Reading the instructions on a medicine bottle
  • Shopping online

There are many ways to improve your reading, writing, maths and digital skills at any age.

How can I improve my literacy?

People of every age and from every background can have literacy needs. It does not matter if you have finished school or done exams, you can improve your skills at any time for any reason.

You can get free adult literacy classes locally, by phone or online.

Some of the places that offer classes are:

  • Education and Training Boards (ETBs)
  • The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

Your local Education and Training Board (ETB)

The adult literacy service in your local Education and Training Board (ETB) provides reading, writing, maths and computer classes for adults. They have centres around the country.

All ETB tutors are specially trained to help you feel at ease and support you to get the most out of your classes. You can use the service for as long as you want, and you can take a break from a class and come back to it later.

Classes at the ETB

Literacy classes at your local ETB are:

  • Open to all adults who want to improve their reading, writing, maths or computer skills
  • Planned around what you want to learn
  • Free
  • Usually 2 hours per week

How to sign up

If you want to take literacy classes from your local ETB, you can find the ETB contact details.

National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a charity that works to improve adult literacy in Ireland.

All of NALA’s literacy services are free and you can:

  • Learn with a tutor
  • Learn online at your own speed

Learn with a tutor on the phone or by post

NALA can work with you over the telephone, through the post or on the internet.

  • You decide what to study. There is no set course.
  • NALA calls when it suits you. There is no class schedule.
  • Normally, it is one call per week for up to 30 minutes.
  • NALA keeps working with you until you meet your goals.
  • Classes are available 7 days a week, early morning to late evening.

Learn online with NALA

Learn with NALA helps you to improve your reading, writing, maths or digital skills. You can study online by yourself or combine it a NALA tutor by phone.

Help My Kid Learn helps parents with fun learning activities for primary school children.

How to sign up

To sign up, contact NALA by Freephone 1800 20 20 65 or text 'LEARN' to 50050.

You can find further information in the Adult Literacy for Life 10-Year Strategy (pdf).

Page edited: 11 January 2024