Literacy is more than teaching people to read and write; it is about enabling people to engage with what they are reading.

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‘Literacy is about men and women and children being able to access multiple forms of communication, and that opens up their world to new knowledge and experiences. We want people to be able to read the Bible, think about it, and ask: “What does this mean for me in my life?”’

Catherine Young, serving in literacy with Wycliffe

The work of literacy is an important element of the ‘interdependent activities that make Bible translation possible and worthwhile,’ says Sue Gravina, a literacy specialist who has worked in many parts of the world.

Literacy work plays a role in many of the stages of Bible translation. ‘Literacy specialists are involved alongside linguists in devising and testing writing systems,’ Sue explains. ‘They are consulted about Scripture materials and their production and, of course, translated Scriptures are only of use if people are able to read them.’

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Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

Matthew 4:4

Millions of people all over the world have no one to help them write down their language, to work with them to produce books, or to help set up programmes for teaching adults and children to read. In almost all cases, it is the poor and marginalised who are denied access to literacy.

Together with our partners, Wycliffe works alongside local communities to see this situation change, and to offer specialist training in the various aspects of literacy work.

Skills and experience

Do you have what it takes to be a literacy specialist? The following are all very valuable in this role:

  • a desire to serve and help others;
  • concern for marginalised people;
  • commitment to being a team player;
  • flexibility and tolerance;
  • a love of teaching and passing on skills to others;
  • good communication skills;
  • the ability to organise and manage people;
  • enthusiasm for learning new languages and cultures;
  • talent in art or graphics.

You may have some of these skills and characteristics already. Others can be learnt. The training offered by the School of Language and Scripture will give you the tools you need in linguistics, culture learning and literacy programme management.

The impact of literacy can ripple out far beyond Bible translation, transforming lives and communities in many ways. Watch the ‘Ripple effects of Bible translation’ video to find out more:


We would love to talk to you about serving God through literacy – contact us here.

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