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Secret Lives of Americans 

Adult Literacy Episode on Pivot TV

ProLiteracy has teamed up with Participant Media and Pivot TV to raise awareness of adult literacy in the United States.

The original television series Secret Lives of Americans is a groundbreaking documentary series that takes an unflinching look at the secrets we all keep, and the strength that it takes to reveal them to our friends and family. Secret Lives of Americans will be featuring an episode on adult literacy that tells the story of Cleo, a loving and supportive mother from Alabama who has always encouraged her children to pursue their educational goals—all while struggling to share her own literacy issues with her family. The show will further the conversation on how viewers are impacted by this issue in their own communities and provide ways to take action.

Adult literacy is not just a secret for Cleo. It is a secret for millions of Americans across the country. Our research shows that 70 percent of the population claim that they don’t personally know an adult who cannot read, or who reads at or below a third grade level. But 36 million adults in America struggle with literacy issues that push them into secrecy and isolation. That’s about 1 in 7 people with such low literacy skills that they can’t read a book to their child, or the instructions listed on a pill bottle.

Working with ProLiteracy, Pivot will encourage viewers to volunteer with local literacy organizations and to advocate for improved literacy services nationwide. 


Join ProLiteracy in changing the conversation about adult learners, and for additional resources to promote literacy in your community.

Plan and Host a Screening Event

Plan and host a screening event on or after June 3, 2016 to share the episode with your community and spark conversations, critical thinking, actions, and donations. Invite your donors, community members, politicians, media, and advocates. This is a great marketing opportunity to create awareness of adult literacy.

ProLiteracy has developed a toolkit with resources to help you plan your screening event. Download the resources by clicking the links below.

If you'd like to host a screening event and would like to order a copy of the episode, send an email request to

Secret Lives of Americans Adult Literacy Episode Description

Cleo, a truck driver and busy mom, has been hiding a secret from her family for decades. A supportive and positive parent, she has always made education a priority for her children and is happy to say that she has raised honor students. Cleo and her kids tell each other everything, but there’s one thing she has never told them about herself. While growing up in Alabama, Cleo struggled in school and never learned how to read. Cleo learned how to memorize reading materials and recite them back when necessary. She used this technique throughout her entire education and still managed to graduate from high school. Over the years she has found ways to hide her secret, but the longer she has kept it, the more shame she has felt. Now Cleo is ready to share her secret with her family so she can finally move forward with her life.

More Info

TakePart Action Platform
Our animated video will be posted and promoted on Participant's TakePart Action Platform (TAP). This digital hub has more than 6.6 million unique visitors per month. The goal of TAP is to make it as easy as possible for people to act on social issues when they learn about them. ProLiteracy will be posting resources on this site for people to find a member program to learn to read or volunteer.

Information about Participant Media
Participant Media is a leading media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change. Founded in 2004, Participant combines the power of a good story well-told with opportunities for viewers to get involved. Participant’s more than 70 films, including Spotlight, Contagion, Lincoln, The Help, He Named Me Malala, The Look of Silence, CITIZENFOUR, Food, Inc., and An Inconvenient Truth, have collectively earned 50 Academy Award nominations and 11 wins. Participant has also launched more than a dozen original series for its television network, Pivot TV. Pivot is available in 51 million homes nationwide.