In May of this year, Marissa Rose was standing in line at Open Door behind a man who admitted to the receptionist that he couldn’t read well enough to find his doctor’s office. Rose, who felt an urge to help the man, wanted to recommend an adult literacy program in the area, but there was just one problem-- she couldn’t think of any resources specifically designed to help people improve their reading skills.
After leaving the doctor’s office, she started researching and found that in many Muncie neighborhoods, educational attainment, poverty, and unemployment (all factors that are connected with poor adult reading skills) are higher than average. In Whitely, for instance, around 30% of the population lacks a high school diploma. When she looked at the existing resources the community offered, she found a significant gap. In Delaware County, there are already programs for career-building skills, as well as ESL, but no program existed to connect and empower adult readers struggling to perform basic reading tasks. Taking notice of this resource gap, Rose gathered information from existing literacy nonprofits in other regions decided to fill it by building a brand new nonprofit, The Community Reading Project.
The mission of The Community Reading Project is to improve the quality of life for adults in Delaware County by improving their reading skills. They offer traditional one-on-one tutoring for people who want to become better overall readers and they also offer drop-in reading help through Reading Information Desks, which serve people who may need immediate help solving a reading problem (for example, help reading their light bill or understanding the bus schedule). The Community Reading Project’s target demographic includes individuals who are over 18, native English-speakers, and reading below a 5th-6th grade level.
The Community Reading Project has received funding from United Way and has staked a partnership with the Ross Center. Training for volunteer tutors is already underway. Rose has been impressed by the reaction of her community members: “To me, the passionate support I've received in the community thus far really speaks to the fact that this is a real need, and that other people see it, too.”
If you’re interested in getting involved with this project, there are multiple ways to help. Former educators are invited to act as a mentor to novice tutors. If you’d like to be a mentor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
They are also accepting donations as the program continues to expand. Donations can be made online here: http://www.communityreadingproject.org/donate.
Finally, anyone who wants to help spread the word about the project is encouraged to do so, whether through word-of-mouth or social media. According to Rose, the program’s biggest need right now is to reach potential students who might not know about the program.