Reading Works was incubated under the leadership of the Detroit Free Press Charities, and former Publisher Paul Anger, with the recognition that dramatically low literacy rates in metro-Detroit were holding our region back. The negative consequences of this foundational issue could be seen in the home, the neighborhood, in hiring and in the workplace.
Reading Works was formed as an umbrella organization – or collective – to bring awareness to this important issue and to support the work of community-based organization. We started by identifying and working with the most effective community partners providing the full range of adult education services from literacy, basic education, GED preparation and English as a Second Language (ESL) training. We sought to raise awareness around the disconcerting number of adults who were not reading at a proficient level whether they had a high school diploma or not, as well as the large number of adults without a high school or GED credential.
Since 2013 our partners have formed a cohesive provider network serving approximately 4000 adult learners. They collaborate on best practices, share experiences and serve as a referral system for each other. Reading Works provides professional development opportunities at our annual conference sponsored with Wayne State University. We have sought ways to reduce barriers to learning and to accelerate the time it takes to obtain a GED. We have supported pilot programs and have brought forth grant opportunities for our partners. We are currently overseeing a Bridge to Pre-Apprenticeship Program with Southwest Economic Solutions and Dominican Literacy Center helping to improve the foundational skills for adults interested in the construction trades.
The improved economy and the inability to hire local residents for available jobs has shined a spotlight on what we have been saying and now everyone is focused on how critical improving adult foundational skills is to the workforce system. At the same time research shows adults do better when they are co-enrolled in education and training programs along a career pathway.
Reading Works is expanding its role to use our experience with the community partners to ensure that foundational skill development is a permanent part of the workforce system. We will serve as a connector between adult education providers, trainers and employers in establishing programs that integrate education and training in both pre-apprenticeship and career pathway programs. We will also continue to provide professional development support and evaluation strategies to ensure oversight and best practices as capacity increases. We will always play a major role with our media partners in raising awareness among community leaders, public officials and business leaders around the challenge and to build support for increasing capacity in the new system. The adults we are focused on are essential to the economic and community well-being of our region. And most importantly, improved education and economic opportunity among adults stabilizes families and has a dramatic generational impact.