Over the past several years, the term “equity” has been a major topic of discussion as nonprofits and educational institutions address ways to bridge opportunity gaps and create accessible, effective programs that meet the diverse needs of the communities they serve. But what exactly does equity mean? What does it look like? And is READ’s mission of changing lives through adult literacy connected to equity? First, let’s define equity.

(Image by Paul Kuttner)

The picture on the left is what equality looks like: everyone gets the same box. But the problem is that the same size box only allows one baseball fan to see over the fence. What’s more, the red and yellow spectators are starting from a lower point than the blue spectator, adding to their disadvantage. The issue is greatly improved in the right image. Now, each baseball fan has what they need to see over the fence, and everyone gets to enjoy the game. Equity means that each person is provided with the specific tools they need to succeed. There is no one size fits all. It is a justice-oriented concept that “fair” does not always mean ” everyone gets the same thing.”

Literacy and equity are uniquely intertwined. Literacy is a skill many of us take for granted, and those who lack it are affected in nearly every aspect of their lives: health, finances, digital skills, family life, job opportunities, continuing education. The list goes on and on. READ is committed to helping students improve their literacy skills so they can overcome the barriers low literacy causes. There are several ways that we accomplish this.

We meet students where they are both in location and in educational needs. Several of our classroom spaces are hosted in libraries, churches, and other buildings that are accessible to where our students live or work. In COVID-19 times, READ staff has adapted to virtual alternatives in a variety of ways to ensure that even students with digital barriers can still engage in learning. Educationally, students are assessed and placed in the class that is right for them. Classroom tutors support and reinforce instruction and work with students on their personal literacy goals.

READ recognizes that students have different learning styles. While one student might learn best in a group environment where there’s lots of collaboration, auditory activities, and competitive games, others might learn best in a calm, quiet space where they can work on their own. READ takes the times to learn what works best for our students and supports those needs accordingly.

Our programming staff selects and develops diverse reading materials that are relevant to our students. READ chooses literature that students can connect with, whether it be current events in the News For You newspaper or books with diverse characters.  The READ Center Readables, written by staff, provide information on finances and health in accessible language. Low literacy does not mean lack of interest or the need to follow current events.

READ proactively adapts to the changing environments and priorities of our students and their lives. Recognizing that digital literacy is more important than ever to learning in the era of a global pandemic, READ’s distance learning coordinator recently developed a pre-instruction digital skills class to help students develop basic digital literacy skills so they can participate in distance learning.

READ learns just as much from our students as they learn from us. We recognize our students are adults with life experiences and skills that they share with their classmates, teachers, and tutors. One of our teachers, Don, had this to say about his work with READ adult students:

“As somebody who, before doing this job, taught high school English for 39 years, I’d say that they way you respect adults is different from the way you respect teenagers. They are not your underlings. They are your equals – in all sorts of ways, except for maybe their ability to read and write, so all of that has to be respected.”

READ is proud of its students and all that they have accomplished.

Want to be a part of READ’s mission? Make a difference in someone’s life today by becoming a READ tutor!

You can show your support for literacy and equity by purchasing a READ Center t-shirt.