It’s a great question and one we ask often at The READ Center. A recent Proliteracy blog provides some answers and raises even more questions.

“There are 36 million Americans reading below a third-grade level. The non-reading adult is all but unemployable, severely hampered in his or her ability to navigate the digital world—never mind something as basic as public transportation or a utility bill. Recent calculations have suggested that for every dollar invested in literacy programs, $5 is saved in public assistance funds. It seems so obvious, and yet, across the country, low literacy programs are the first to go when the inevitable budget cuts arrive.”

90% of The READ Center’s students read at or below the 5th grade level and about 50% read at or below the 2nd grade level. So, you can see why this question hits home at The READ Center.

Funding for adult literacy is tough. Adult literacy is not a sexy subject and it is easy to ignore. Adult literacy students don’t want to talk about it as they are often ashamed or embarrassed by their lack of skills. Local governments and schools don’t want to talk about it. The system failed.

Even though we know that a mother’s education level is the greatest determinant of her children’s academic success and that research shows that focusing on educating children without also addressing parents needs for basic education will not solve the academic achievement gap, adult basic education programs are often forgotten when literacy issues are discussed, and funding provided

What can we do? Like Proliteracy, The READ Center is raising its voice and hopefully our community’s awareness of the problem in metro Richmond. We believe everyone needs and deserves a literate life. Literacy is essential to eradicate poverty, improve housing and health, stabilize families and communities and create sustainable employment. Without basic literacy skills, we are leaving behind 72,000 adults in metro Richmond and perpetuating a cycle of functional illiteracy and poverty.

As importantly, it is a promise that was made. It is the right thing to do. It is the just thing to do. It is the good thing to do. Literacy skills provide adults with independence, confidence, self-esteem and dignity.

Thank you to all who support The READ Center. READ relies on your donations to provide classes and one-to-one tutoring to adults who need literacy help. You have make a difference in our students lives. They appreciate it. They appreciate you – we know because they tell us how thankful they are to have The READ Center, its teachers and tutors.

With your support, The READ Center will continue to provide quality adult literacy programs to as many students as our resources allow because even one adult who cannot read well in RVA is one too many.