In Alabama, 15% of its adult citizens are functionally illiterate. That translates to over 720,000 of our state’s potential workforce. Many of these adults may be unemployed because they simply can’t complete a job application.
With unsettling numbers like these, it is clear that literacy is not just a K-12 challenge. It affects all fundamental aspects of education and of building a successful workforce for a healthy, thriving community.
For the first time, there is a cross-sector assimilation of efforts focused on meeting this challenge for the sake of Alabama’s future economic and educational progress.
In May, more than a dozen nonprofits and state agencies jointly announced the creation of the Alabama Literacy Alliance, launching a mission “to foster communications and partnerships throughout Alabama to advocate, coordinate, promote and support the effective delivery of literacy services to build a productive, literate workforce.”
The vision of the Alliance is to build a state where all citizens reach their optimal literacy potential. It was formed after months of meetings between multiple literacy stakeholders, state agencies, local literacy councils and other non-profits including A+. The Alliance will develop a series of regional meetings across the state to expand local and regional leadership, partners, and advocates.
“Literacy is a key building block to Alabama’s economic, educational and community success,” said Beth Wilder, president and CEO of The Literacy Council, serving five counties in Central Alabama. She explained in a news release that the need “is immense” for a statewide alliance focused on improving literacy delivery services.
The Alliance was introduced at its first summit meeting in Montgomery May 11th. Keynote speakers included national literacy expert Margaret Doughty, who is the founder and CEO of Literacy Powerline, and Stephen Black, founder of Impact Alabama. Other speakers included Ed Castile, Director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) program; Caroline Novak, president of A+ Education Partnership; Susan Price, Interim Chancellor of the Alabama Dept. of Postsecondary Education; Judy Stone, Program Coordinator of the Alabama Reading Initiative; Bradley Byrne, attorney and state business leader; and Dr. A.Z. Holloway, M.D., director of the Child Health Access Project .
“There has never been a consortium of this caliber put together to address Alabama’s literacy challenges,” said Alliance Chair Johnnie Aycock of Tuscaloosa. “Learning to read is a cornerstone for success in all areas from education and economic development to healthcare and high-tech industry.”
“The Department of Education is proud to be a part of this Alliance at what really is a critical time for our state’s literacy network,” said Judy Stone. “Spreading the best practices through an integrated system ensures that today’s students have access to the very best tools to make them lifelong learners.”