Washington, D.C. – The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is pleased to announce the establishment of the Robert and Dorothy King Technology Innovation Fund, made possible by a $2 million gift from King Philanthropies. The new fund will advance the Foundation’s work to address America’s low literacy crisis by driving the development of innovative educational technology solutions for adult learners and their families.
Nationwide, 130 million adults – 54% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 74 years old – lack proficiency in literacy, essentially reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Low literacy prevents millions of adults from fully engaging in society as parents, workers and citizens, lying at the core of multigenerational cycles of poverty, poor health and low educational attainment.
This crisis impacts not only individuals and families, but also the economic stability of our entire nation. A 2020 Gallup study commissioned by the Barbara Bush Foundation examined the impact of adult literacy on the U.S. economy, finding that the nation could be losing up to $2.2 trillion annually due to low adult literacy rates. Parental literacy is a particularly critical driver of both current and future economic mobility. A 2010 study by the National Institutes of Health found that a mother’s education level is the single greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing every other factor including neighborhood and family income.
“By improving adult literacy rates, we have the power to lift families out of poverty and boost our economy for generations to come. But obstacles like work schedules, childcare needs and transportation issues – which have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – often prevent adult learners from accessing traditional, in-person education programs,” said British A. Robinson, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation. “We’re so grateful to Bob and Dottie King for their visionary support of our work to harness the power of technology to meet learners where they are, which is now more important than ever.”
In today’s increasingly digital environment, successful literacy programs must leverage innovation to expand learning beyond the traditional classroom environment. While there are many educational technology solutions available for K-12 children, very few existing tools meet the unique needs of parents and adult learners. Through the Robert and Dorothy King Technology Innovation Fund, the Barbara Bush Foundation will continue its groundbreaking work to bridge this gap by identifying and scaling educational technology solutions for adults, including mobile apps and artificial intelligence, investing expertise to optimize and bring promising solutions to market.
Bob and Dottie King are the cofounders of King Philanthropies, a grantmaking foundation that works to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people by multiplying the impact of high-performing leaders and organizations. The Kings’ philanthropic work reflects a longstanding family ethos of stewardship and service, with focus on initiatives that will yield significant, enduring improvements in the lives of those who experience extreme poverty.
“We valued Barbara Bush’s friendship and we so admired her constant desire to give back—especially her passion for improving lives through literacy,” shared Bob and Dottie King. “Like Barbara, we believe that literacy can create transformational change in families and communities nationwide, and we’re proud to support the Foundation’s work to expand its impact through innovation.”
Technology has been a key focus of the Barbara Bush Foundation’s work since 2015, when it partnered with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to launch the world’s first global competition to incentivize the development of mobile applications to teach adult learners to read, anytime, anywhere. Today, the Foundation continues to build on that experience, pursuing further opportunities to serve more learners, more quickly by combining its 30+ years of expertise in adult and family literacy with innovative edtech solutions.
“After decades of work in family literacy, my mom was a big believer in the power of technology to scale our efforts. She knew that we must find a way to open the doors of opportunity so that everyone has an equal chance to learn and succeed,” said Doro Bush Koch, honorary chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation. “She would be overjoyed and incredibly thankful, as I am, to know that our friends Bob and Dottie King are helping us carry on the work that meant so much to her.”
If you’re a member of the media or would like more information, you can reach Lauren Sproull, Vice President of Communications, at 850.562.5300 or Lauren.Sproull@barbarabush.org.