by Rob Martin
The mission of Indy Reads is to promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana.
Indy Reads is a not-for-profit organization that relies on volunteers to provide basic literacy tutoring to illiterate and semi-literate adults. Their mission is to promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana. They believe that everyone should have an opportunity to learn to read, and their goal is to make Indianapolis 100% literate. Their programs include one-on-one tutoring, small group sessions, English as a Second Language instruction, and “Literacy Labs” at neighborhood centers.
The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 defines literacy as an individual’s ability to read, write, speak English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential.
The term functional illiteracy refers to those individuals who, even knowing how to read and write simple phrases, do not have the basic aptitudes to satisfy the demands of their daily needs nor to develop themselves personally and professionally.
Functionally illiterate individuals can’t fill out a job application, read a prescription, take a driver’s test, or check their child’s homework. Illiteracy impacts the individual and the family. It is difficult to work, and near impossible to be self-sufficient. Illiteracy is linked to poverty, criminal activity, poor health, and early death. A parent’s literacy level accurately predicts a child’s future academic and economic success.
The Department of Labor estimates that illiteracy costs businesses and taxpayers $225 billion a year through workplace accidents, lost productivity, unrealized tax revenues, welfare payments, and crime.
Illiteracy affects us all, especially through the taxes we pay to support social services. Adults with low literacy skills are more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed or underemployed, receive Medicaid, and depend upon food stamps and other public assistance.
The Department of Justice reports that nearly 70% of people in state correctional facilities have not completed high school and 14% have had no high school education. According to the report “Literacy Behind Prison Walls,” 70% of prison inmates are functionally illiterate or read below the 4th-grade level.
The National Center for Family Literacy reports that research shows children’s literacy levels are strongly linked to the literacy levels of their parents, especially their mothers. Literate adults raise healthier and more successful children.
Perhaps the greatest highlight during the past three years was that in 2012, they provided free programming to a record 1,406 adults. These adults are taking control of their lives by improving their reading and writing skills so they can get better jobs, take better care of themselves, and be better parents. This is four times the number of students being served from their start as an independent non-profit six years ago. This is a 400% increase in programming with only a 60% increase in budget. And this is done with the dedication and service of over 800 volunteers and partnerships with the community.