If smart growth is about knowledge and innovation, investment in literacy skills is a prerequisite for achieving such growth. This report is a wake-up call about the literacy crisis that affects every country in Europe. Our world is dominated by the written word, both online and in print. This means we can only contribute and participate actively if we can read and write sufficiently well. But each year, hundreds of thousands of children start their secondary school two years behind in reading; some leave even further behind their peers. This has damaging consequences for their futures. And... millions of adults across Europe lack the necessary literacy skills to function fully and independently in society. Awareness and acceptance of this widespread and deep-rooted problem are the first important steps towards action. This report is as much about Europe’s citizens of all ages as it is about socio-economic developments, trends and equality of opportunities. And it is as much about acknowledging the shocking numbers and problems as it is about identifying root causes and opportunities. We hope our call to action will be read by everyone engaged in policy-making or grass-roots activities in a range of areas, be it at local, regional, national or EU levels: from employment to health, from digital developments to civic participation, and from education to poverty. In all these pressing issues, literacy is likely to play a key role. So addressing literacy provides opportunities to tackle some of the root causes and factors blocking progress in all of these areas. Grasping these opportunities requires a profound understanding that reading and writing are much more than a technique or a skill. Literacy is about people’s ability to function in society as private individuals, active citizens, employees or parents. Children need skills to learn, adolescents need them to get a job and shape their futures positively. Citizens won’t be able to pay their taxes online or vote if they’re not literate. Employees need to be able to read safety instructions. And how can patients use their medication properly if they cannot read the instructions or lack the confidence to ask others? Literacy is about people’s self-esteem, their interaction with others, their health and employability. Ultimately, literacy is about whether a society is fit for the future. We encourage everyone to read this report: parents, teachers, businesses, governments and civil society players. We hope you take our recommendations to heart and act upon them. Investing in literacy is investing in Europe’s human capital. Such investments only have winners: citizens of all ages, businesses and governments and, ultimately, Europe’s wellbeing and competitive position in the world. This report will, I hope, help kick-start an ambitious, comprehensive and structural approach within and across EU Member States to prevent and reduce literacy problems. But its usefulness is only as good as the progress made in the coming decade to implement the recommendations of the report. In doing so, we need to be both open- and single-minded in our focus on the children, adolescents and adults who need to be reached.