On February 23rd, over 100 community members joined together to focus their collective wisdom, creative problem-solving skills, and resources to tackle the literacy crisis that exists in Muskegon County. Here's a brief recap of the event and an opportunity to get involved.
Melissa Moore, Read Muskegon's Executive Director, started by sharing some statistics to create a vision of the literacy landscape in Muskegon County. "Illiteracy is one of the most complex, interconnected, and deeply-rooted issues we face as a nation, " Moore said. "It's an issue of social justice, because those who cannot read cannot equally participate in our society." She challenged attendees to be "disrupters" in the generational cycle of illiteracy.
Sharon Darling, founder and CEO of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), applauded Muskegon County for their collaborative efforts to tackle illiteracy and said she would like to see it become a model for the nation. She called literacy the stem of the flower whose petals are issues like welfare, health care, and criminal justice reform that rely on the strong base of literacy to keep blooming. She noted that while our country's literacy statistics have been going backwards, we know what to do and the time is now to start doing it.
Poppy Sias-Hernandez, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Governor Whitmer, remarked that equity is the outcome of diversity and inclusion and that we need to continue our efforts to create equitable education and other systems that support everyone. She said that equity happens through collective efforts, when people bring their grit, talent and resources to the creation of solutions.
Rosa Guzman-Snyder, Director of Community Development for NCFL, presented a timeline of the work that has been done by the literacy collaborative and the vision for moving forward. She set the stage for attendees to participate in breakout room conversations focused on 3 areas as they relate to tackling illiteracy: Economic Opportunity & Workforce Development: coordination of adult learning opportunities leading to family-sustaining wages, Education: mobilizing as a community to support our schools and ensure families have what they need to help their children succeed, and Neighborhoods & Community Leadership: utilizing existing networks to bridge the gap between needs and services. Input from the breakout sessions will be used by the collaborative work groups to create short and long-term action plans.