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Last Updated: 04/12/2018


 Article of Interest - Literacy

All citizens are damaged by illiteracy
by Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, September 29, 2002
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Here's what some people in Detroit can and cannot do.

They can usually sign their names, but cannot locate their eligibility from a table of employee benefits.

They can usually identify a country in a short article, but cannot locate an intersection on a street map.

They can locate the expiration date on a driver's license, but cannot enter background information on a Social Security card application.

Those things they can't do are impossible because they cannot read or only at the lowest level of ability.

I've been writing about this problem for more than a year now, since July 2001, and two things are true:

Most of the 47 percent of Detroit residents 16 and over who can't read CAN learn. And most adults who can read don't understand that illiteracy is a problem that affects us all.

Is your interest only in economics? Consider the economic impact of nearly half of a city's adult residents reading at the lowest basic level;

unable to understand government so they don't vote;

unable to be trained for the jobs that economic development officials want new companies to bring here;

unable to understand school work so they can't help with homework;

unable to process environmental concerns so they can't support efforts to protect our natural resources.
Is your interest only in making sure that young kids can read? Consider that thousands of Detroit schoolchildren arrive at school unable to read and write. Teachers load them with lessons and send them home to practice with parents who cannot read their child's materials.

The assessment that revealed metro Detroit's problems with literacy revealed a nation's problem. The National Adult Literacy Survey showed that 21 percent to 23 percent -- or 40 million to 44 million of America's 191 million adults 16 and older were at the lowest literacy level.

Detroit's biggest problem with illiteracy is admitting that such a basic problem is at the root of nearly every other single problem that the city has, economic, educational and social.

Now consider the fact that it isn't just Detroit's problem. Double-digit illiteracy rates plague Oakland and Macomb counties. And nearly one of five adults across the state cannot read.

So folks, the secret is out and the Metro Detroit Reads campaign to promote adult reading has begun. I'm thankful for the support it received, thus far.

Five area literacy centers, joined by the Detroit Free Press, and partners that include the Detroit Pistons, DaimlerChrysler, SBC Ameritech and several elected officials, are making a difference already.

In just a month, the centers have signed up nearly 200 new tutors, one-fifth of the campaign's goal. More than 100 people have sought help to learn to read.

Now the job is convincing others.

It isn't easy.

It requires proud people with secrets to seek help.

If you know one of those people, tell them there's a whole world waiting for them. For help or to volunteer, call 866-310-READ, or go to the literacy booth at the Free Press's Yak Book Fair, 1-4 p.m. today at the Buell Management Building at Lawrence Tech University, 21000 W. 10 Mile Road, Southfield.

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