By Amber Harris, guest blogger
When it comes to literacy, it might seem to the casual observer that the United States as a whole is doing well, especially for people living in urban areas. The numbers, however, tell a different story: a story of a literacy crisis, even in big cities. New York City is home to 6.4 million working age adults, but 2.2 million of these adults do not have a high school diploma or English proficiency, reducing their ability to make a living wage and lead a fulfilling life in the United States. 50% of adults who do not have a high school diploma read at below a basic level, and 44 million American parents are not able to read their children a story.
Funding has been cut from many literacy programs, leaving millions of people in need without any means to improve their literacy. So how do we address this crisis? By getting innovative. Here are just a few ways to gain funding for literacy programs that may require a little creativity, but can help those struggling find new hope.
Just because public funding may be disappearing from many literacy programs, that doesn’t mean that citizens can’t direct their dollars toward literacy using digital crowdfunding. Though most commonly used to sell a product for profit, it can also be used for social programs like literacy efforts. In fact, about 10.7 million was raised for civic projects between 2010 and 2013. One example of this in action is the Alpha-Mania Storybooks crowdfunding campaign, which was created to fund both printed books and e-books for early childhood literacy skills. Supporters received copies of the books, and the intent was to eventually distribute materials digitally at a low cost, allowing more children and educators to benefit.
Many corporations are now beginning to add sponsorships for social programs into their business plans, and tend to support programs that their leaders feel strongly about, or issues that have close ties with the company’s mission. Barnes & Noble is one company that funds nonprofits promoting literacy, but there are other sponsorship opportunities available that can provide much-needed funding.
Money from grants has always been in high demand, but that doesn’t mean grants are not worth pursuing. The Department of Education offers millions in specialized grants, including funding for “Innovative Approaches to Literacy”, while many private organizations offer smaller grants and contests to help fund educational programs.
4. Digital Solutions
Struggling with a rampant literacy issue, Philadelphia met all the challenges head on—by harnessing the power of technology. Investing in digital solutions, the city government used data that detailed what was and wasn’t working to create a free, interactive learning system for adult literacy. In-person classes and small groups coached by volunteers resulted in over 3,000 adults completing their basic literacy training or earning their GEDs in 2015. It’s the creativity and hard work of many that leads to successful literacy programs like Philadelphia’s—and these programs show that innovation can make a big difference.
Check out the infographic below, created by the University of Cincinnati’s Online Master of Education program, which presents the literacy rates in the U.S. Click here to view the original inforgraphic along with additional information about literacy rates in the U.S.