How to Tell the Story of Low Literacy
Posted by Dee Cater on August 31, 2016 in categoryStories from the FieldcategoryNewscategoryAdvocacycategoryMember Tips

How to Tell the Story of Low Literacy

Adult literacy has an awareness issue. Thirty-six million U.S. adults struggle with low literacy. That’s one in every six adults in the United States. But, on our recent public opinion poll, 70% of respondents claim that they do not personally know someone with low literacy. In reality, they probably do.

How can we raise awareness about the adult literacy issue?

In the absence of funding, what the adult literacy field does have is 36 million individual and captivating stories. As we saw in June when Cleo’s story aired on The Secret Lives of Americans, telling the stories of adult learners humanizes low-literate adults and raises awareness of the adult literacy issue. Hearing learners’ stories underlines the fact that these are real people—people you may know—who never learned to read.

Mark Horvath is an expert at telling poignant stories. As founder of Invisible People, Horvath has been filming the homeless for eight years. It all started when he lost his job and his house. He had faced homelessness years before, and was familiar with the loneliness and isolation that came with it. So he picked up a camera and started filming. With a starting budget of $45, Horvath has now traveled the country filming the stories of homeless people. The stories are simple, unedited, and raw. He sets the camera up, lets people tell their own stories, and shares the footage on social media sites like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. And it works. Through his work with Invisible People, Horvath has been sponsored by Hertz, Ford, Hanes, and has been featured by the Los Angeles Times, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, MTV, Forbes, and more. Invisible People generates around 10 million unique impressions every week and has reached over 1.2 billion people in the past five years. Those people have become a community that supports and shares Horvath’s message about homelessness.


The combination of unfiltered storytelling and social media is allowing millions of people to understand the issue of homelessness. This use of social media is a model that the adult literacy field can use to connect and inspire influencers. By giving a voice to those who struggle with literacy, we just might be able to overcome our awareness issue.

How can we start telling impactful stories?

Luckily, Horvath has agreed to share his knowledge with us as the first speaker for ProLiteracy’s new Snow Speaker Series. The Snow Speaker Series is funded by a grant from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust and will address issues to help literacy and human service providers. Horvath will present Social Media for Social Impact: Storytelling Through Social Media. You can join us at the ProLiteracy headquarters or view the event in a live online broadcast. During the talk, Horvath will discuss the success of Invisible People and how others can use video and social media to grow the mission of a nonprofit organization.

Topic: Storytelling Through Social Media
Date: Thursday, September 15
Time: Presentation starts at 3 p.m. EST
Location: ProLiteracy Headquarters, or view the broadcast live online

Together, we can create a larger voice for literacy. It starts with giving a voice to adult learners, and sharing the stories of those affected by low literacy.

About Mark Horvath
Mark has over 30 years of leadership and marketing experience and a vast knowledge of homelessness, including lived experience. As an award winning television and multimedia producer, Mark’s original expertise was in response television. Today, Mark is known for his work in transmedia storytelling, social media, cause marketing and content marketing. Mark is the founder of Invisible People, a unique digital storytelling organization that uses video and social media to change the story of homelessness. His platform is one of the most revolutionary and poignant storytelling destinations on the web. Mark’s work is extraordinary because he not only helps solve the systemic, scaled problems of homelessness by destroying stereotypes, but he also helps singular individuals, every day. He has been featured by the Los Angeles Times, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, MTV, and Forbes among others.


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