In today’s competitive job market there is little room for average skills and credentials. In order to get through the door for an interview you need a substantial resume, exquisite references and sometimes; a miracle. For many people across the United States this is an uphill battle, one that becomes even more difficult with limited literacy skills.

According to the National Center for Family Literacy, an estimated 23% of American adults do not show basic reading proficiency. In Chicago, even bleaker estimates show 53% of adults have low or limited literacy skills. This is a substantial population of adults that are unable to read directions, fill out job applications or communicate their needs effectively.

For many children, reading time in the classroom can be very intimidating. As an after school provider and past ESL teacher, I have encountered many children and adults who dread reading aloud, lacking confidence in their reading skills. Often teachers do not have the resources or time to dedicate to low-achieving readers, so those students fall even further behind. As Chicago Public Schools face a $370 million shortfall in this fiscal year, school officials plan to cut about $86 million in programming efforts. Unfortunately, most of those program reductions include after school and literacy initiatives.

Now, more than ever, our children need support and assistance with literacy skills. Studies show that a child’s reading scores dramatically improve when parents or other adults are involved in helping them learn to read. Children also need comfortable spaces for literacy learning, where books are easily accessible and comfortably enjoyed. Chicago Cares is taking action to promote literacy in both of these areas!

Chicago Cares Business Shares program and Annual Events help to renovate over 50 Chicago Public School libraries and hundreds of classrooms every year! Ongoing education programs also serve 10 Chicago Public Schools with evening and weekend literacy-based programs for children. Read-with-Me programs are one of our most popular with school administrators, and are a fun and rewarding experience for many of our volunteers.

Read-with-Me offers students an opportunity to read books with adult volunteers, and then complete art projects related to the book. As students read aloud, volunteers help them comprehend what they’ve read, work on pronunciation, discuss lessons learned and give positive encouragement. By helping a child learn to read, you are building the foundation for future success.

Celebrate National Literacy Month by volunteering at a Chicago Cares Read-with-Me program!

Today’s post is from Senior Manager of Education, Alisha Flores.

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