Volunteers needed to increase literacy

Sept. 8 is International Literacy Day, created 45 years ago by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate literacy and remind the international community of the obstacles that still remain to global literacy.

Today, internationally, some 796 million adults lack minimum literacy skills (1 in 6); 67.4 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. Literacy skills affect everything from parent-child interaction, to health, to financial independence, to employment opportunities and quality of life in our communities.

In the United States, there are more than 30 million adults who do not have a high school diploma or equivalency. Yet it is predicted that by 2025, 60 percent of jobs will require post-secondary degrees or credentials. In Cuyahoga County, nearly 400,000 adults (25-64 years old) have no college degree or certificate.

Furthermore, 85 percent of children whose parents have less than a high school education and 60% of the children whose parents’ education ended at high school live in poverty.  It’s an unfortunate reality that illiteracy and poverty are both cyclical and linked.  A child with at least one illiterate parent is twice as likely to be illiterate. 

In 39 of the 69 school districts in Cuyahoga County, less than 50 percent of children entering kindergarten are prepared to do so and research shows that children that are still behind in 3rd grade stay behind.  The National Research Council has determined that academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading level at the end of third grade.  A child who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.

Every day, a large network of organizations strives to change these statistics and foster learning to build a thriving community. The Literacy Cooperative works with literacy providers across that spectrum that focus on both child and adult education in reading and math, GED preparation, computer skills, workforce development training and financial and health education. Each and every one of these organizations can use a helping hand in the form of volunteer tutors.  

According to the United Nations, “literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment, and a means for cultural development.” The few hours you donate a month have the potential to transform lives. Please call Greater Cleveland Volunteers at 216-391-9500 or Business Volunteers Unlimited at 216-736-7711. You can also search for volunteer opportunities at www.businessvolunteers.org.

Katherine Bulava

Robert Paponetti is the executive director of The Literacy Cooperative, a client of Hatha Communications president Katherine Bulava.

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Volume 4, Issue 9, Posted 9:30 AM, 08.31.2011