Most people are unaware of the consequences of illiteracy. Project Literacy will address this global problem. Together we can solve it.

About Project Literacy

Project Literacy is a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson, the world’s learning company. The aim is to bring the power of words to the world, by building partnerships and driving action.

Illiteracy is a global crisis. It impacts over 750 million lives - one in ten people alive today. It costs the world $1.19 trillion a year. Yet most people hardly give it a second thought.

Maybe we’ve never met anyone who’s struggling to write. Then again, a lot of people who find it hard to read are very good at hiding it. So perhaps we missed the signs when we had a chance to help.

One thing’s for sure. Most people are unaware of the consequences of illiteracy. And its costs.


The number of people who can’t read this sentence. That’s more than the population of Europe, or 1 in every 10 people in the world today.


The cost of illiteracy to the world economy each year. We should never underestimate the power of literacy to kickstart economies and drive development.

The curse of illiteracy is that it is largely invisible. But its impact is global and devastating. If you see inequality and poverty, you’re seeing the impact of illiteracy.  An inability to access learning through literacy makes people more likely to experience poverty and suffer social and economic hardship. This in turn means their children are less likely to be literate, which creates a vicious cycle.  

Literacy is central to achieving nearly every one of the Sustainable Development Goals—a set of universal goals agreed by the UN and the world’s leaders that will guide policymaking over the next fifteen years. Their aims are simple: to end poverty, protect the planet, and bring about prosperity for all.

Words are the key to so many things. They are how we make sense of the world around us.  Through words, we can pursue life-changing opportunities and stand up for the rights of others to do the same.

Project Literacy exists to bring the power of words to everyone. So that by 2030, every child born can grow up to be a literate adult.

Our Advisory Group

The Project Literacy Advisory Group provides an invaluable thought leadership role for the campaign and helps us tackle one of the most urgent sustainable development challenges of our time. The Advisory Group supports the development of a sustainable movement for change, mechanisms for robust collaboration among advocates and practitioners, and strategic priorities for the campaign.

We believe progress requires a new way of problem-solving, one that brings together very different partners in the common fight against illiteracy. Therefore, Advisory Group membership reflects a range of sectors, geographies, and expertise, with diverse experiences and insights needed to steward Project Literacy toward sustainability.


Aria Finger, CEO,
Ben Goldhirsh, Co-Founder & CEO, GOOD Worldwide
Jeff Hoffman, Entrepreneur ( , , ColorJar), Experienced CEO, Worldwide Motivational Speaker, Board Advisor, Film and Music Producer
Kate James, Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer, Pearson & Spokesperson, Project Literacy
Michael Lombardo, Literacy Expert & Former CEO, Reading Partners
Marianne Ponsford, Director, CERLALC - Centro regional para el fomento del libro en América Latina y el Caribe
Priscila Cruz, Founder & Executive President, Todos Pela Educação
Rapelang Rabana, Founder & CEO Rekindle Learning


Aria Finger, CEO & Chief Old Person,; President, TMI
As CEO and Chief Old Person of, the largest organization for young people and social change in the world, Aria Finger uses her expertise on all things young people and tech to lead a diverse, impact-driven team. She has been an instrumental part of scaling from less than 100,000 members to over 5 million members in 131 countries today. Starting at as an associate 10 years ago, Aria created their Teens for Jeans campaign which has clothed over 5 million homeless teenagers to date. With her cause ­related marketing experience, Finger has spearheaded partnerships with top brands including Johnson & Johnson, Coke, H&M, and CVS Health.

In 2013, she founded and became President of TMI, a strategic consultancy that uses’s 20+ years of experience and proprietary data to help clients reach young people and fuel positive impact in the world.

Aria graduated magna cum laude in economics and political science from Washington University in St. Louis, and completed the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Aria currently serves on the board of the NYC­-based not­for­profit Care for the Homeless, was one of the first ten World Economic Forum Global Shapers and is an adjunct professor at New York University. She has been highlighted in the New York Times, Fast Company and was named to the 2012 Crain’s New York Business list of “40 Under Forty” and featured on the cover. In 2016, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

When she is not running or desperately trying to improve her Spanish, Aria can be found reading The New Jim Crow for the thousandth time, or relearning her ABCs with the newest addition to the DS family, her adorable son Luke.

Ben Goldhirsh, Co-CEO and Co-Founder, GOOD Worldwide
Ben Goldhirsh is Co-CEO and Co-Founder of GOOD, a global community of, by, and for pragmatic idealists working towards individual and collective progress. Outside of GOOD, Ben is chairman of The Goldhirsh Foundation, an organization built to help social innovators implement and scale solutions to critical societal challenges. A co-founder and board member of City Year Los Angeles, Goldhirsh graduated from Brown University and resides in Los Angeles.

Jeff Hoffman, Entrepreneur and Founder of
Jeff is a serial entrepreneur in the Internet, technology, and entertainment industries. He has founded, co-founded, and been the CEO of numerous start-ups and larger companies, and has led his companies through acquisitions and public offerings (,, CTI, and others).

Recently Jeff was inducted into the Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame by the CEO Council, and as a board member of numerous international entrepreneurship organizations he travels the world mentoring and speaking to entrepreneurs globally (recently Egypt, Malaysia, Peru, Algeria, Spain, and more).

Currently, Jeff is a co-founder and partner at ColorJar, the Idea Accelerator that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. Jeff has produced feature films including Cabin Fever.

Kate James, Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer, Pearson; Spokesperson, Project Literacy
Kate James joined Pearson in January 2014. She is a member of the Pearson executive team, and as Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing Officer she oversees communications, marketing and the Pearson brand, government and regulatory relations, investor relations and the company’s social impact work.

Prior to joining Pearson, Kate was Chief Communications Officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to Gates, she held senior leadership roles in the financial services industry including heading communications globally at Citibank and leading advocacy and sustainability at Standard Charter Bank. She is Director of the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, serves on the boards of Vital Voices Global Partnership and America’s Promise Alliance, and is Chief Spokesperson for Project Literacy.

Michael Lombardo, Literacy Expert & Former CEO, Reading Partners
Michael Lombardo served as CEO of Reading Partners for nearly a decade, growing it from serving a handful of Silicon Valley schools to the largest organization of its kind in the United States, working with over 80 school districts across 11 states. He serves as a Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Stanford University and is a founding advisory council member of the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, President Obama's signature initiative focused on boys and young men of color. Michael is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is currently launching a new education technology enterprise focused on reading in elementary schools.

Jane Nelson, Senior Fellow and Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School
Jane Nelson is Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She was a Director and senior advisor at the International Business Leaders Forum from 1993 to 2009, and has been a senior associate with the Institute for Sustainability Leadership at Cambridge University, and an advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative.

In 2001, she worked with the United Nations Global Compact in the office of the UN Secretary-General preparing a report for the General Assembly on cooperation between the UN and the private sector.

Prior to 1993, Nelson worked for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Africa, for FUNDES in Latin America, and as a Vice President at Citibank working for the bank's Financial Institutions Group in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. She has co-authored five books and over 80 publications on corporate responsibility and the role of the private sector in development, and five of the World Economic Forum's Global Corporate Citizenship reports.

Nelson serves on the Boards of Directors of Newmont, the Abraaj Group, FSG, Chevron's Niger Delta Partnership Initiative, the ImagineNations Group. She serves on advisory councils for the IFC, Bank of America, Abbott, ExxonMobil, GE, Merck Vaccine, APCO Worldwide, the Center for Global Development, the Initiative for Global Development, InterAction and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center. A graduate of the University of Natal in South Africa and Oxford University, she is a former Rhodes Scholar and recipient of the Keystone Center's 2005 Leadership in Education Award.

Marianne Ponsford, Director, CERLALC - Centro regional para el fomento del libro en América Latina y el Caribe
Marianne Ponsford is the director of the Regional Centre for Book Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLALC) since October 2015. She has a degree on Communication Sciences from the Javeriana University (Bogota, Colombia), and a master's degree on Hispanic Studies from the University College (London, England).

Marianne has worked as editor in Siruela, Planeta and Turner. In Turner, she edited the Castro Library of Spanish Classics (1994-1995) and took part on the creation of the essay collections 'Weapons and Letters' and 'Noema' (2001- 2002).

She co-founded in 1996 the cultural magazine El Malpensante. She was the director of the weekly magazine Cromos from 1998 to 2001. In 1999, she won the National Journalism Prize 'Simón Bolívar', on the chronicle category, for her article 'The resurrection of Chavela Vargas'. From 1999 to 2001, Marianne was a member of the Editorial Board of the Colombian journal El Espectador, where she was also Sunday columnist from 2002 to 2008.

In 2005, she created for Semana Publishing House the cultural magazine Arcadia. She was the director of this magazine until 2014, when its 100th number was published. Marianne created and promoted the 'Arcadia Bookstores' Festival', celebrated in Bogota from 2012 to 2013, in which 25 local bookstores took part.

Marianne has also collaborated to different media in Colombia and Latin America, and she has been jury of literary and journalism awards.

Priscila Cruz, Founder & Executive President, Todos Pela Educação
Priscila Cruz holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, an undergraduate degree in both Business Administration from Getúlio Vargas Foundation and Law from the University of Sao Paulo as well as professional development studies at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. Before entering into the not-for-profit sector, Ms. Cruz worked as a strategic consultant at Bain & Co. and Marsh McLennan and acted as the general coordinator of the United Nations International Volunteering Year in Brazil in 2001, an effort that awarded the initiative a special distinction (amongst 123 countries) from the UN.

In 2002 Ms. Cruz founded the Faça Parte ("Be a Part") Institute, an NGO that focuses on engaging students from public schools into educational volunteering programmes (i.e. service learning). In 2005, she coordinated the launching of the Todos Pela Educação ("All for Education") movement, currently one of Brazil's most respected NGO's that aims to transform the quality of Brazil's Basic Educational system by “raising the Education flag” through Brazil’s main media channels and by advocating for specific policy change at the national level. As the Executive President of Todos Pela Educação, Mr. Cruz has been responsible for leading national campaigns and has spoken at a great number of events throughout the country and abroad. In 2012, she received the Young Leader in Education Award, sponsored by the Grupo Estado, one of Brazil's most prominent media conglomerates.

Rapelang Rabana, Founder & CEO, Rekindle Learning
Featured on the cover of Forbes Africa magazine before the age of 30 and named ‘Entrepreneur for the World 2014’ by the World Entrepreneurship Forum, Rapelang is an internationally lauded technology entrepreneur.

She is the founder and CEO of Rekindle Learning, a dynamic learning tech company that provides educational and performance support tools that improve learning efficiency and reduce time to competency, for both corporates and academia. Rekindle Learning was profiled in the McKinsey Lions go digital report as a ‘striking innovation’ in mobile learning.

Rapelang’s curious mind has always questioned how the world works, even as a youngster she believed that there had to be a better, simpler and more effective ways to do things – and there is: technology! As a speaker, she takes this message across the globe and her innovative thinking has contributed to many changes in the way organisations adapt and thrive in the new world of work.