Introduction An adult literacy programme, by definition, serves learners who have been failed by the formal education system: either they have bypassed it altogether, or, more commonly among those brought up in North America, they have been through school but have not acquired the skills that it is supposed to teach. The reasons for their failure in school are many and various, and so are its effects: while for some individuals illiteracy is associated with serious emotional and social problems, for others it is an inconvenience, albeit a serious one, which they seek to minimise through a range of more or less effective strategies. For an aduit literacy programme" .it , is important to know what kinds of problems prospective students bring with them so that they can be assigned to suitable tutors er placed in appropriate classes; it is also important to know the range of strategies learners use to cope with their problems, for these strategies represent strengths on which they and their tutors or teachers can build.