Literacy is a critical building block of an academic foundation that supports a child’s educational success and future as a productive self-sustaining adult. Unfortunately, this essential building block is missing for hundreds of thousands of students showing up to school each day. Illiteracy has reached a crisis level as it has not been fully addressed or understood for decades.
Left untreated, the health of our state will continue to suffer. We know that a child who struggles to read becomes an adult who struggles.
We implore Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to make eradicating illiteracy one of her top priorities. This silent epidemic is killing the futures of thousands of children across our state.
It’s time we address a root cause of a failed educational model in our vulnerable communities — illiteracy. The state currently invests education dollars that cannot be utilized by all students. Students who can’t read can’t participate in school. The current model doesn’t include funds for the individual needs of students.
I believe illiteracy is America’s most solvable disability.
In Detroit, Beyond Basics has implemented a proven, scalable, research-based solution that gets children of all ages reading at grade level in just six weeks.
D. Carl Freeman, a Wayne State University professor, conducted research on the Beyond Basics program. “The data are unequivocal, students who participate in the Beyond Basics reading program make progress on the basic reading skills, at many times the rate of students in their same school participating only in the general education reading program.”
Beyond Basics’ trained personnel provide intensive, one-on-one, multi-sensory reading instruction for one hour per day using a customizable curriculum.
We developed this model by partnering with principals and schools in Detroit since 2002, to work with children who were farthest behind to get them reading at grade level. Our holistic literacy programming also engages mentors, art and writing to help students in vulnerable communities learn to read. This intervention has transformed thousands of lives.
Now is the time to take action.
My recommendation: Embrace a new literacy strategy with a proven solution, instead of throwing more resources at what has not worked.
Give every student the intensive care needed by investing in the critical building block of literacy, ensuring every child gets the individualized reading intervention needed to participate in school.
Fund this emergency literacy intervention in schools and open family literacy centers to serve both students and adults in struggling communities. With this investment and collaboration with stakeholders, we can elevate everyone in need.
Since Beyond Basics began, our team members, along with key community partners — including 2,000 volunteers, individuals, corporations, family foundations, school districts and government agencies — have supported us to improve literacy for our most vulnerable.
Just like we rush to help victims of a natural disaster far from home, we also need to help victims of manmade disasters that occur over time like a failing educational model. In Detroit alone, there are more than 100,000 children whose lives could be changed and even saved in six weeks.
Literacy is an investment in our future. By empowering students and adults with literacy, we can break the generational cycle of poverty. The end result is a stronger, healthier Michigan with a more talented workforce and robust tax base. By working together, we can help everyone build a better life right here in Michigan.
Nelson Mandela said two things I take to heart: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”
This investment demonstrates a belief in the potential of every person. I look forward to the day we can look back and see our work to eradicate illiteracy is done.