Literally, What is Literacy?

Most people think about literacy in terms of reading and writing. Nonprofits understand the direct tie between literacy—in all its forms—and physical, emotional and financial health.


Did you know that 1 out of every 5 adults in North Texas cannot read? Really and truly, that’s shocking. Good thing there are amazing nonprofits like Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) that aim to wipe out that statistic.

Most nonprofits aim to increase literacy, just not in the reading and writing way you usually think about it.

Nonprofits like It’s Time Texas that fight childhood and adult obesity promote nutritional literacy. Check out their free Living Healthier and Teaching Healthier apps. 

Organizations like Denton County Friends of the Family that focus on serving victims of domestic violence in many ways promote relational, emotional and legal literacy through their individual and group therapy sessions and legal services. 

Literacy in and of itself is specified knowledge.

We promote financial literacy at Interfaith Ministries (IFM) where we serve our North Texas neighbors who find themselves in unexpected financial crisis.

Melody Treviño, MSW and Bilingual Intake Counselor, asks men and women, husbands and wives, single parents, the elderly—everyone who walks into her office—the same question: What happened?

She asks them to think about what caused the financial crisis that led them to apply for emergency services at IFM. She often hears:

I lost my job.

My hours were cut.

My spouse left.

I can't make it on my fixed income. 

When clients qualify, we give them one-time financial assistance, resources and referrals to try and help them from falling off the financial edge. We offer financial counseling and budgeting help to clients from across the financial literacy spectrum. We help people reach their self-established goals by passing on specific knowledge through financial coaching and regular support. 

Why all the talk about literacy? April is National Financial Literacy Month.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) 3 of every 5 adults do not budget their money or keep close track of their spending, and nearly 25% of adults do not pay all of their bills on time. In their 2015 Financial Literacy Survey, they found the majority of respondents said they would first go to family and friends if they were in financial crisis with debt. Often though, help from family or friends has been exhausted or is not an option.

National Financial Literacy Month invites us all to take a look at our own financial health. Do we have enough to get through a medical emergency, natural disaster or loss of income? KERA’s One Crisis Away series exposes the fact that 1 in 3 North Texans are much closer than they think to a financial breaking point.

How financially literate are you? Take this quick quiz designed by Rutgers University to get an idea of your overall financial health. After you answer the questions, your score will place you in a range of financial forecasts. Or, get instant feedback as you answer each question with this test from the Dallas Morning News and Texas Tech University.

Asking for money—or any help—can be embarrassing, similar to the embarrassment and fear of those who cannot read and write.  

Nonprofits are amazing in that they wipe away the stigma associated with the situation, or the illiteracy let’s say.

LIFT eases the embarrassment of an adult who cannot read. It’s Time Texas inspires rather than lectures parents to know the difference between the foods on the perimeter of the grocery store and all the processed foods in between. Denton County Friends of the Family counsels and empowers rather than scolds women on the dynamics that led to their abusive situation. At IFM we hear everyday from those in financial crisis or right on the brink of it. We all try to pass on specified knowledge. 

All nonprofits help and educate with the hope of increasing literacy

in our cause areas—be they areas of physical, mental or financial health.