Taking the first steps on any difficult journey requires courage and commitment – and for those who have difficulties reading or writing, the stigma attached can prove daunting and discouraging. In 2007 An Post researched, developed and funded an advertising campaign to encourage those with literacy and numeracy difficulties to take those difficult first steps through contacting the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) freephone support line.
The TV and cinema advertisements profile three individuals (a train driver, a mother and a hairdresser) who have addressed their literacy difficulty and they aim to encourage others to take the first step and reap the rewards by contacting NALA. The ads focus on the benefits of returning to further education, as well as demonstrating that this issue is not confined to any particular demographic segment. An Post later developed a series of radio advertisements ‘words and numbers’ to accompany the campaign.
Since the advertisements were first broadcast in September 2007, NALA has recorded over 11,000 calls to its freephone support line. The calls are mainly from adults who have seen the An Post advertisements and want to find out how they can improve their reading, writing or numeracy skills. NALA has also received calls from friends and family members who are ringing on behalf of an adult who has literacy difficulties and from people who want to volunteer as literacy tutors.
In 2011, An Post developed three new TV advertisements based on research from the 2007-2010 campaign which continue to encourage people to ring the NALA freephone support line. A complementary, information website www.takethefirststep.ie has been inundated with hits with during the course of the campaign.