Some Suggested Reading


This list of publications will be updated from time to time. It is grouped into themes to be helpful and each section is sequenced in recommended order of reading

This list is kept very short – there are many other books which can be read. If you wish for more references, please ask.


a)  The traditional approach – literacy as a basic skill:

Agneta Lind and Anton Johnston Adult Literacy in the Third World  SIDA 1989 and later editions: a useful short summary 

UNESCO Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2006 Literacy for Life  Paris: UNESCO: later GMRs contain some material on literacy but this is the complete study.

b)Literacy as social practice

Uta Papen: Adult Literacy as Social Practice  Routledge 2005 – the best short introduction to adult literacy; although some of her cases come from the UK, the discussion applies to the context of ‘developing societies’, as Dr Papen has worked in a number of countries in Africa and Asia.  Start here.

David Barton:  Literacy; the ecology of written language  Blackwells (second edition) – a longer but very readable account of modern understandings of literacy

Brian Street:  Literacy in Theory and Practice Cambridge University Press 1984: the standard textbook on the ‘social practice’ approach to literacy which led eventually to the New Literacy Studies


Mastin Prinsloo and Mignonne Breier (eds) Social Uses of Literacy, Amsterdam: Benjamins 1997:  one of the earliest collections of case studies of literacy using ethnographic approaches, all from South Africa

Nirantar (ed) Exploring the Everyday:  ethnographic approaches to literacy and numeracy  New Delhi:  Nirantar and ASPBAE 2007, available at ; the first of the LETTER reports; discusses what ethnography is and how to use it in adult literacy programmes to explore everyday literacies; case studies from India and other countries 

A H Gebre, A Rogers, B Street and G Openjuru (eds) Everyday Literacies in Africa:  ethnographic studies of literacy and numeracy practices in Ethiopia  Kampala: Fountains Press 2009:  a second LETTER report with discussion of ethnography and case studies of local literacies and livelihoods: available at

Rafat Nabi, A Rogers and B Street, Hidden Literacies:  ethnographic studies of literacy and numeracy practices  Uppingham Press 2009: a very important short report on literacy practices which are not recognised as literacy; case studies from Pakistan : available at

Anna Robinson-Pant Why eat green cucumbers at the time of dying? Women's literacy and development in Nepal 2000 UIL available from

Anna Robinson-Pant (ed) Women, Literacy and Development: alternative perspectives Routledge 2004: a series of case studies of literacy in different countries of Asia and Africa

Brian Street(ed) Literacy and Development:  ethnographic perspectives  London: Routledge 2001 : another collection of case studies with a general conclusion 

Rosa Maria Louisa Doronilla  Landscapes with Literacy  (the Philippines) UNESCO  1992: a splendid study of how literacy practices varies from community to community and how that impacts of adult literacy learning programmes


Alan Rogers Adults Learning for Development Cassells 1992: a general introduction to international development and the role of adult learning


Alan Rogers and Naomi Horrocks Teaching Adults Open University Press 2010:  a general study of how adults learn and how one may teach adults effectively

Alan Rogers and Brian Street Adult Literacy and Development: stories from the field Leicester: NIACE 2012: discusses both what literacy is and how it is taught.

Judy Kalman Discovering Literacy:  access routes to written culture for a group of women in Mexico UNESCO 2005: the best study I know of actually teaching adults in class and the lessons the teachers learned.

Pat Campbell Measures of Success:  assessment and accountability in adult basic education Edmonton: Grass Roots Press 2007: an excellent introduction to how to measure success in adult literacy and basic education programmes 


Mary Hamilton 2012 Literacy and the Politics of Representation  Routledge: a detailed study of how policy makers and educators have spoken about literacy and the effect this has on learning programmes; well worth studying

Erik Jacobson 2012 Adult Basic Education in the age of New Literacies  Peter Lang: a most valuable study of the digital revolution and its impact on adult education  including literacy; probably the best introduction to digital literacy available at the moment