Half a million adults in Ireland have problems reading and writing and even more have difficulty doing basic maths.
Research shows that 550,000 Irish adults find it difficult to read and understand everyday texts such as a leaflet, bus timetables or medicine instructions.
Low literacy levels affect how people communicate and the lack of awareness means that these people are often excluded.
Dr Inez Bailey, from the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), says it can have a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities.
"Literacy is a valued right and tasks such as filling in a form, reading health information or accessing everyday services online should be attainable for every member of society," said Dr Bailey.
NALA is launching Take The First Step, a national public information campaign to encourage those who have difficulties with numeracy and literacy to contact them or their local ETB to get the help that they need to improve their skills.
The opportunity is free and open to all, with participants able to choose what, where and when they want to learn.
The campaign is being launched at a conference being held by NALA today to mark the UNESCO International Literacy Day which takes place on Sunday.
Speaking ahead of the conference, keynote speaker Jason Vit, Head of Literacy Hubs at National Literacy Trust, UK, said: “Low literacy levels have a series of effects on individuals, be it on their employment, health or confidence.
"We see that the poorest areas often have the greatest literacy challenges. Literacy is not about schools, and it is not about libraries.
"It is about an entire community infrastructure. We believe that by taking coordinated action at a local level to drive up literacy levels, we can support increased educational attainment and employability skills, and improve health outcomes and social capital.”
The campaign is a joint initiative between the Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), SOLAS (the Further Education and Training Authority) and NALA.
"Literacy, numeracy and digital skills are fundamental to personal fulfilment, active citizenship, social cohesion and employability," said Andrew Brownlee, CEO of SOLAS.
"Evidence supports the positive impact of such skills for individuals, communities and the national economy."
There are currently around 63,000 adults attending literacy courses in ETB adult education centres nationwide.
The ‘Take the First Step’ campaign encourages adults who have difficulty with reading, writing, maths or technology to contact a Freephone support line 1800 20 20 65 or free text LEARN to 50050 or contact your local Education and Training Board to get the help they need.