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Literacy is a lifelong gift

December 5, 2009

It was with great interest that I read Morton Marcus’ [Nov. 30] column encouraging us to spend responsibly this holiday season, and to “give a check to your local adult literacy program.” It was with added delight when I read Theresa Rhodes’ column on the same page suggesting that readers consider volunteering by “helping an adult learn to read.” It is clear that both Marcus and Rhodes understand the importance of eliminating adult illiteracy in our community.

The “United Way Community Assessment” notes that a “significant portion of adults do not demonstrate sufficient literacy skills needed to fully participate in an increasingly competitive work environment” in central Indiana. Adults who can’t read are at-risk individuals. Adult literacy impacts the individual, the family, the community and the economy: it is difficult to work, and near impossible to be self-sufficient when you can’t read. Illiteracy is linked to poverty, criminal activity and poor health.

Indy Reads is the only ProLiteracy accredited organization in Indianapolis which uses trained volunteers to provide free reading, writing and life-skill instruction to adults. Services include one-on-one tutoring, small-group sessions, English as a Second Language instruction, and our new Literacy Lab program at neighborhood centers.

To improve the literacy skills of adults in central Indiana who read or write at or below the sixth-grade level is the mission of Indy Reads. Our goal is to “make Indianapolis 100-percent literate.” In 2009 Indy Reads will provide free tutoring to 850 adults—more than double the number of students we worked with just two years ago.

There is an immediate ripple effect when you donate or volunteer. By helping an adult learn to read, you are helping their children, too. The No. 1 predictor that a child will not graduate from high school is if his mother can’t read. And with Indianapolis facing some of the worst graduation rates in the country, it is in the best interest of all of us to make sure that parents can read.

Indy Reads gives at-risk adults the skills they need to find and keep jobs, escape from poverty, and become better parents. As the need for our services grows, so does the need for what Marcus and Rhodes suggested: money and volunteers. Indy Reads has a waiting list of 50 adults who want to learn to read. Please visit indyreads.org to learn how to help them this holiday season.

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M. Travis DiNicola
Executive director
Indy Reads

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