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Reading to Lead 

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With roughly 6,500 different languages in the world, it’s clear that people love to communicate. Being able to talk, write, and read are essential in every part of life. In Kalamazoo County, 13 percent of adults, roughly 25,500 people, are not able to read a job application, but Kalamazoo Literacy Council (KLC) is working to change that. For over 40 years, KLC has offered free one-on-one programs designed to develop reading, writing, and spelling skills in an effort to make Kalamazoo County 100 percent literate.

One of the essential programs that KLC offers is its workforce literacy series called JOBS. This 11-week program teaches essential skills for employment to support learners in their mission of career development. “These are incredibly motivated learners, but sometimes what happens is the pressure for employment is too high for them to be able to start,” explained KLC Executive Director Michael Evans. “Really what this (program) is designed to do is to help remove those barriers that will connect them to those jobs.”

Over the years, and especially recently due to the pandemic, KLC has developed its curriculum to include courses on digital skills, health literacy, and financial literacy as well as the digital learning options. “Because it’s virtual, it is now accessible to a much broader range of learners who had access to it,” said Michael. “So, if you want to learn with us at three o’clock in the morning, you can.”

With the help of 261 volunteers, 15 literary partners, and several community partnerships, 704 people are supported in their literacy mission each year. Organizations including Workforce Development Specialists, Michigan Works! Southwest, Momentum, and Goodwill Industries have been essential to KLC’s success. “The Kalamazoo Literacy Council could not do the work that it does by itself,” said Michael. “Having these additional outside voices validate the work that we do is wonderful, but it also expands our network and the resources that are available.”

On a mission to be life-long learners themselves, KLC hosts monthly forums with community partners to develop best practices and programs. “We’re looking for all voices and partners who could be a part of the solution,” said Michael. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to, through partnerships with new friends, serve more people.”

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