2017-11-12 / Editorial

Reading, education key to personal growth

While Michigan continues to be a leader in business and technology innovation, it has a long way to go to help K-12 students succeed in school and to train people for today’s highly skilled jobs.

That assessment comes from Doug Rothwell, CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, who addressed an audience of about 500 business leaders Thursday at the organization’s annual CEO summit held at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit.

Employers say they’re challenged in Michigan to find enough workers with the skillset they need, while K-12 students continue to score low on standardized tests that show whether they’ve mastered basic reading and math concepts.

According to a published report in Crain’s Detroit Business, a report by the Business Leaders of Michigan said Michigan ranked 46th out of 50 states for fourth-graders’ proficiency in reading and 37th for eighth-graders proficient in math.

Recognizing the importance of a good education and literacy to prepare Lapeer County students for the modern marketplace and the skills sought by companies in Michigan, several local service clubs and the Family Literacy Center (FLC) have stepped up to make a difference.

This week the Rotary Club of Lapeer and Kiwanis Club of Lapeer have again partnered in the Dictionary Project to distribute hundreds of dictionaries to thirdgrade students in school districts across the county.

The Dictionary Project, based in Charleston, SC is a nonprofit organization with a single mission — to assist all students to become good writers, active readers, creative thinkers and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary.

A challenge for literacy

The ability to read and comprehend is key to learning, and to succeed in life. Without strong reading skills it’s very difficult for youth and adults alike to enter the workforce and be a part of the increasingly robust Michigan economy and to meet the needs of employers as detailed by CEOs at this week’s summit in Detroit.

Toward that end, an anonymous donor living in the Lapeer area recognized the value of the Family Literacy Center, and recently offered the organization $10,000 on the condition that the group raise money to match the contribution. The only stipulation, according to the donor, is that the money be used to increase training and recruitment — a significant need.

We commend the donor for the generous gift, and urge the community to help raise the necessary $10,000 match to provide FLC with the resources to help local residents obtain the reading skills necessary for a richer life.

The FLC provides free tutoring to adults in our community who want to improve their skills and change their lives. Since Jan. 1 of this year, more than 200 students have gone through FLC programs and 40 students have received GEDs — more than all of last year.

Currently, the FLC is using every resource available to try to generate donations to match the funds offered by the anonymous donor. The FLC is also working with Security Credit Union to help get the word out, and the group is getting volunteer contributions by skilled professionals as well.

The focus of the money will be on recruiting and training the organization’s tutors and volunteers, and both are needed. “We always need tutors, but volunteers are important too, and we want to have a stronger volunteer base,” said FLC Executive Director Mary Shelton-Weise. “We have a lot of really strong supporters so I think this is very sustainable.”

Thanks to local service clubs, the FLC and teachers across Lapeer County area students have been afforded the opportunity to achieve their best — and at the same time inspire them to set their sights high. Through better education, Michigan and its residents stand better odds to become one of the top 10 states in the nation when it comes to jobs, income and a thriving economy.

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