Literacy Is Essential for Success


Few tools in life are as important as the ability to read, write, and cipher simple mathematical problems. Without these skills, it is practically impossible to navigate through one’s day. Fortunately, there are literacy programs, which will assist people in obtaining the tasks that are essential for having success in life.

Everyone measures success in different ways. However, the scale favors those who have the ability to read, write and do arithmetic; the 3Rs.

In Chicago, there are several programs to help adults learn these necessary skills. Many individuals do so well that they can finish high school, graduate college, or successfully pass the General Education Degree (GED). For some, being able to write their name, understand their household expenses, and follow written instructions is enough.

The Illinois State Board of Education, Children’s Literacy Foundation, and Chicago’s Citywide Literacy Coalition have compiled statistics that are distressing.

  • Approximately 30 percent of Chicago’s adults have little to basic proficiency in the 3R’s, according to the literacy alliance.
  • Only 46 percent of school-aged children in the city read at the required level for their grade level.
  • The study also found that as many as, 61 percent of low-income households do not own any children’s books.

The first hurdle is to know that they are not alone. Embarrassment tends to keep people from admitting they have problems. There are stories of people who were able to hide their 3Rs deficit from their families, at least for a while.

Finding Literacy Help in Chicago

In Chicago, anyone interested in locating a program to aid in their 3Rs proficiency can do so by contacting various centers around the city.

Literacy Chicago offers classes in Basic Adult Education, GED, both beginning and intermediate English as a Second Langauge (ESL), Citizenship, Conversational ESL, and Adult Literacy. These are held in various public libraries.

2015 Stats for Illinois Literacy Programs

LiteracyAn annual review conducted in 2015 was submitted by Jesse White, the Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian demonstrated the successfulness of literacy programs in the state.

There are some statistics available for the Adult Voluntary Literacy program.

  • 18,125 adults participated in 2015, and their average age was 39 years old.
  • 49 percent were adult ESL learners.
  • 7,531 volunteers assisted adults in the program, and their median age was 54 years old.
  • “Volunteer tutors provided 287,493 hours of tutoring
    instruction, which equates to $7,112,573 of service
    per the Independent Sector.”

Success Stories from the Literacy Program

At the South-East Asia Center in Chicago, there is a 73-year-old man from South Korea, who has worked hard over the last year and a half. Even though he was able to converse satisfactorily, his confidence was lacking. When he began, he was placed in the low/intermediate ESL classes and quickly progressed to advanced.

Volunteers at the center are very proud of him. They contend he taught them more than he learned. Throughout the time he has been there, he has proved that a strong work ethic and perseverance are great tools for success.

Through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy a father of two, who was moved through school despite his inability to read. This made life difficult for him, and it affected his marriage and his ability to find a decent paying job.

He explains that his sons helped him understand that reading well is important. It was when his third-grade child asked, “Dad, you are old. Why can’t you read?”

Swallowing his embarrassment, he found the local literacy program and began the journey. He learned to love reading and is now attending community college.

“I hope my experience will teach my children and others that it is never too late to learn and that you should never, ever give up. I no longer feel the shame as I am able to read and write. I continue to push myself, and I know I can overcome any problem standing in my way.”

By Cathy Milne


Literacy Chicago: Class Information
Illinois Literacy Winter 2016: FY 2015 Literacy Program statistics and success stories
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: How I Learned to Fall in Love with a Story

Featured Image Courtesy of Kim Brookes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Barry’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Andrew McCaughan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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