The Taunton Literacy Council was founded in 1991 as the serious scope of adult illiteracy took center stage on both the national and international levels.
A national literacy movement was led by then First Lady Barbara Bush. The Bush Administration promoted and supported literacy efforts that resulted in the 1991 National Literacy Act. Globally the 1990s was declared, "The UNESCO Literacy Decade" On the state level, the Massachusetts Department of Education had estimated that one of every three adults - more than 1.5 million people - were in need of literacy services. Adult literacy in Southeastern Massachusetts, determined by countrywide numbers reported in the National Adult Literacy Survey, have placed illiteracy rates in the four major cities of Bristol County - Taunton, New Bedford, Fall River and Attleboro - at upwards of 40 percent.
The Taunton Literacy Council, a not-for-profit organizat5ion, was founded by a group of concerned community leaders who were focused on the issue of adult illiteracy and the profound impact in the Taunton area. Estimates of adults in Taunton that need help reading were reported as high as 14,000. Those founding members included the city's newspaper publisher and managing editor, superintendent of public schools, public library director, community activists and director of reading programs for Taunton schools.
Thus the Taunton Literacy Council formed its dual missions to act as a funding source for the Taunton Literacy Corps' adult illiteracy efforts supported by what was to become the Taunton Adult Education Partnership (Taunton School Department and Bristol Community College), and to promote and advance the cause of literacy in the Taunton area.
The adult literacy effort in Taunton is the only literacy initiative that has successfully maintained a program for more than a decade in Southeastern Massachusetts. The primary reason for the enduring success of the effort has been continued and sustained support from the Taunton Literacy Council
While other adult literacy efforts undertaken in the region have faded because of their sole reliance upon government grants and the failure to create and sustain a local organization to fill funding gaps, the Taunton Literacy Council and the non-profit/public adult basic education model for delivery of literacy services with the Taunton Adult Education Partnership, have built that blueprint for success.