Laubach, Frank Charles (1884-1970)

Congregational missionary and apostle of world literacy

frank_laubachBorn in Benton, Pennsylvania, Laubach graduated from Princeton University (1909), from Union Theological Seminary, New York (1913), and from Columbia University (Ph.D., 1915). He married Effa Emaline Seely, a nurse, in 1912, and in 1915 they sailed to the Philippines as missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). When local hostilities frustrated his aim of working among the Muslims of southern Mindanao, he did evangelistic work among the Catholic population in northern Mindanao until he was appointed to the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in Manila in 1921. Combining teaching with administration and fund-raising, he also wrote two popular books on the Philippines and did evangelistic work in the city and among students. In 1929 he began work at Dansalan in Mindanao, a Muslim area. As he laubachfstruggled to reach the highly resistant Moros, he found that the system he had developed for learning Maranao could be adapted to teach people to read their own language. Enthusiastic reception of the program led to rapid expansion, and when American mission support for literacy teachers dried up with the onset of the Depression, a local chief ordered each learner to teach others. The “Each One Teach One” principle, together with graphic charts linking pictures with words and syllables and wide distribution of simple reading materials for new readers, constituted the Laubach method. It proved highly successful throughout the Philippines. In 1935 Laubach began to introduce his method in other countries, and in 1945 he was appointed “missionary at large” of the ABCFM to work with Lit-Lit (the Committee on Literacy and Christian Literature) of the National Council of Churches in the U.S.A., which he had helped establish. After he retired in 1945, Laubach formed Laubach Literacy Inc. to work worldwide, and in 1968 he launched Laubach Literacy Action to work in the United States. His work touched 103 countries, involved 313 languages, and taught 100 mission people to read. His fifty-six books promoted both literacy and the intense spirituality which marked his life. In 1984 a U.S. postage stamp in the Great Americans series was issued in his honor.

David M. Stowe, “Laubach, Frank Charles,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 385-86.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Laubach, Frank Charles. Letters by a Modern Mystic: Excerpts from Letters Written at Dansalan, Lake Lanao, Philippine Islands, to His Father. New York: Student Volunteer Movement, 1937.

_____. Toward a Literate World. New York: Columbia University Press, 1938.

_____. Teaching the World to Read: A Handbook for Literacy Campaigns. New York: Pub. for the Committee on World Literacy and Christian Literature of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America by Friendship Press, 1947.

_____. Channels of Spiritual Power. Westwood, NJ: Revell, 1954.

_____. The Inspired Letters, in Clearest English. Nashville, TN; New York: T. Nelson, 1956.

_____. Thirty Years with the Silent Billion: Adventuring in Literacy. [Westwood, NJ]: Fleming H. Revell, 1960.

_____. Frank Laubach’s Prayer Diary. [Westwood, NJ]: Revell, [1964].

_____. How to Teach One and Win One for Christ; Christ’s Plan for Winning the World: Each One Teach and Win One. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1964.

_____. Forty Years with the Silent Billion: Adventuring in Literacy. [Westwood, NJ]: F. H. Revell Co., 1970.

Laubach, Frank, Elizabeth Mooney Kirk and Robert S. Laubach. In the Valley: Laubach Way to Reading. Syracuse, NY: New Readers Press, 1981.

Laubach, Frank and Karen A. Norton. The Frank C. Laubach Heritage Collection. Syracuse, NY: Laubach Literacy International: Distributed by New Readers Press, 1990. [Selections and excerpts from the writings of Frank Charles Laubach (Man of Justice and Peace; Teacher; Man of Prayer). Introduction to each book and summary biography by Karen R. Norton.]

Shaw, S. Y. Foundations of Indian Adult Education: Selections from the Writings of Frank Laubach, Father of Indian Adult Education. New Delhi: Adult Continuing Education and Extension Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1990.


Davey, Cyril James. Growing Bigger Every Day: Frank Laubach. n.p.: Edinburgh House Press, 1961.

Gowing, Peter G. “The Legacy of Frank Charles Laubach.” In International Bulletin of Missionary Research 7 no. 2 (April 1983): 58-62.

_____. “Frank Charles Laubach 1884-1970: Apostle to the Silent Billion.” In Mission Legacies, edited by Gerald H. Anderson, 500-07. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994.

Inglis, Tom. “Frank Laubach: Unsung Hero of Literacy.” In Adults Learning 2 no. 3 (Nov 1990): 81-2. [Describes the achievements of Frank Laubach and compares his ideas with those of Paulo Freire.]

Laubach, Robert S. The Vision Lives On: A Tribute to Frank and Effa Laubach. Syracuse, NY: New Readers Press, 1984.

Lawson, J. Gregory. Frank C. Laubach: Man of Faith. Waco, TX: Baptist Literary Missions Center, Baylor University, 1991.

Mason, David E. Apostle to the Illiterates: Chapters in the Life of Frank C. Laubach. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1966.

Medary, Marjorie. Each One Teach One; Frank Laubach, Friend to Millions. New York: Longmans, Green, 1954.

Roberts, Helen M. Champion of the Silent Billion; The Story of Frank C. Laubach, Apostle of Literacy. St. Paul, MN: Macalester Park Pub. Co., [1961].

Shaw, S. Y. Each One Teach One: Laubach’s Materials and Methods. New Delhi: Indian Adult Education Association, 1991.

Wiley, Ann L. Frank C. Laubach: A Comprehensive Bibliography. Syracuse, NY: New Readers Press, 1973.