A Study of Frank C. Laubach's Methods of Communicating: A Concern for Adult Literacy Education to the People of the United States

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


John Mitchell


Press coverage, American missionary, Underdeveloped nations, Values, Communication skills

Subject Categories

Education | Mass Communication


Frank Charles Laubach was a missionary educator who has been credited with helping to teach more than 60 million adults to read. He received much attention from the press and he helped to make adult literacy education a concern to many people in the United States. This dissertation examines Frank Laubach's press coverage and offers several explanations for this coverage.

In Chapter I a survey is made of the nature and content of Frank Laubach's coverage in newspapers, mass circulation magazines, and in the religious press. The study indicates that his coverage was extensive and enthusiastic. During the 1940s and 1950s no other American missionary received similar attention and with the exception of Albert Schweitzer, no other missionary in the world received as much attention from the U.S. press during this period.

Chapters II, III, and IV offer explanations for Laubach's extensive press coverage.

Chapter II demonstrates that in the 1940s and 1950s America was open to the kind of message Laubach was bringing. The United States was moving into a role of international leadership and the people were ready to listen to someone who spoke knowledgeably about underdeveloped nations and our responsibility to them. The country was tense about Communism and its potential dangers and it was willing to listen to any reasonable solution. Also, during the late 1940s and the 1950s, people were open to religious appeals and Laubach's message blended well with the values held by the American people during this period.

Chapter III demonstrates that Laubach's personality had an unusual effect on many people who were inspired to support literacy work and to write about it. To understand the Laubach personality, brief studies are made of his family background, his education, his formative years in the Philippines, and his dramatic religious experience there.

Chapter IV examines Laubach's communication skills. The evidence shows that he was an unusual public speaker, a prolific and popular writer, and an extremely effective teacher and trainer of teachers. Note is made of special communication skills that enabled Laubach to relate well to reporters and others who interviewed him. These skills included his use of visual aids, his ability to put literacy into the context of the topics of the day, his readiness to provide anecdotes and other usable material for journalists, his use of slogans, and his success in relating to important people.

The concluding chapter offers some implications about the behavior of the press. One of these is that the press provides good coverage for people who are easy to understand and who are in tune with readers' interests. Also, the press acts as a kind of representative of the public, bringing the public's questions and concerns to news sources. The concluding chapter also offers some of the findings as guideposts for future crusaders who want to place their causes on the public's agenda. Finally, note is made of modern public relations strategies and how these compare with Laubach's methods of communicating a concern for adult literacy education.


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