Happy Birthday Frank Laubach
Missionary Frank Charles Laubach was born on September 2, 1884, in Benton, Pennsylvania.
Laubach attended Princeton University and Union Theological Seminary before earning a PhD from Columbia University in 1915. That same year, he and his wife traveled to the Philippines to serve as Congregational missionaries with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
While working in the Philippines, Laubach was troubled by the poverty, injustice, and illiteracy he saw, which he believed were barriers to peace. In particular, Laubach was most concerned with illiteracy and made it his life’s work to help people learn to read. In 1930 he developed an alphabet for the Maranaw people of Mindanao, Philippines. He would then spend the next 40 years visiting more than 100 countries creating literacy primers (books) for 312 languages. During this time he worked with different missions, private agencies, governments, USAID, the Peace Corps, and UNESCO.
One of Laubach’s most significant contributions was his “Each One Teach One” program. While he didn’t invent the phrase (it dates back to before the Civil War), he used it to encourage every adult that learned the language to then volunteer their time to teach others. Over the years, this program has helped about 60 million people learn to read in their native language.
During his career, Laubach created the World Literacy Committee and helped found the Committee on World Literacy and Christian Literature of the National Council of Churches. He also founded World Literacy, Inc. and Laubach Literacy, Inc. Laubach is often considered to be the founder of the worldwide literacy movement. He spent his later years traveling the world speaking about illiteracy and its connection to poverty and world peace. He died on June 11, 1970.
The Frank Laubach stamp issued in 1984 as part of the Great Americans series is the only U.S. stamp honoring a missionary.