Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Between the Lines: Fighting for Literacy

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen at anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guest: Kathy Jennings and Michael Evans.

Kathy Jennings and Michael Evans in the WMUK studio

Reading isn’t just about picking up a great novel. It’s about being able to fill out a job application or a medical form. It’s about helping your children with a homework assignment or enjoying a bedtime story together. It’s about creating a grocery list and following a recipe—or just enjoying a game of Scrabble with friends.

Established in 1974, the Kalamazoo Literacy Council is committed to reducing illiteracy in Kalamazoo County, where statistics show more than 25,000 people struggle to read. Executive Director Michael Evans was brought on board in 2010 as the nonprofit’s first paid position for an otherwise all-volunteer organization. Free one-on-one tutoring programs offer help in improving reading, writing, and spelling skills. Lessons in basic computer skills are also available.
When Evans came to the Council, 49 tutors were working with 55 learners. By 2013 he had increased that to 170 tutors working with 240 learners.
“Three hundred tutors is our goal for now,” Evans says. “That’s what we believe we help us to really engage the numbers necessary for us to make a statistical change. We’re not here just to manage those who found us; we’re here to start to drive those illiteracy rates downward to the point of termination.”
Kalamazoo Literacy Council event
Kalamazoo Literacy Council event
Kathy Jennings, a volunteer coordinator for the Community Literacy Center, located at Pine Island Presbyterian Church in Texas Township (the newest of a number of literacy centers around Kalamazoo County) , offers insights into what it takes to become a tutor ...

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