HEAL Launches at Read Muskegon

Did you know: the single greatest predictor of an individual’s health is their literacy level? Imagine trying to figure out how to manage diabetes, give your child the proper dose of medicine, or stay healthy during COVID, when you, like over 50% of our country, read at an elementary school level.

Read Muskegon is proud to announce our newest program designed to help families across Muskegon County increase their health and literacy skills, together — Health Education & Literacy Program (HEAL). 

HEAL is an award-winning, research-based health literacy program designed by the College of William & Mary. The program utilizes a unique, two-pronged approach: 

  1. Classes for adults with low health literacy, and
  2. Training for local medical staff, raising their awareness of low-health literacy and providing practical tools and strategies for working with these patients. 

Literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than income, employment status, education level, race or ethnicity. People with low health literacy are more likely to skip important preventive measures and to enter the health care system when they’re sicker. They’re more likely to have chronic conditions, and less likely to manage them effectively.  They are significantly more likely to report their health as poor. 

Low health literacy strains the health care system, resulting in preventable hospital visits and admissions, longer stays, higher readmission rates and extra tests, procedures and prescriptions. The estimated health costs of low-literacy in the U.S. are between $106-$236 billion annually. 

When we increase an individual’s literacy skills, we can directly impact their individual health as well.

The Schroeder Center for Health Policy at the College of William & Mary found that HEAL participants gained statistically significant knowledge and confidence in health topics. Not only did they improve their  literacy skills, they also increased their confidence in communicating about health topics. This allowed parents to be stronger advocates for themselves and their children’s needs when working with local doctors.

We are excited to bring this life-changing program to Muskegon County, launching our first classes virtually in December. HEAL will be integrated into our ESL and jail-based programs and our family literacy program at the Muskegon Heights Hope Center. Through a grant from the White Lake Community Fund, we will offer three sessions; serving students at Duck Creek Alternative Education Center, Head Start parents, and those referred by health care providers. Plans for 2021 include providing HEAL at shelters, in partnership with local churches, and at community healthcare facilities.

New Program Brings Hope Amidst COVID Restrictions

Imagine, what it must feel like to be a parent who — on top of struggling to find your family a safe, consistent  place to sleep — now needs to figure out how you will help them access virtual school. Imagine watching your child fall further behind in learning because you have no way to access the internet and feel unprepared to help them catch-up.

Born out of a collaborative effort of local school administrators, business owners and agencies, Read Muskegon is proud to be a founding partner of the Muskegon Heights Hope Center at Mahali. With many area schools switching to virtual learning this year, Rane Garcia, Superintendent of Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, saw an immediate need to support families who were at the greatest risk of being left behind by remote learning: those in transient living situations. 

The Muskegon Heights Hope Center was born out of a need to provide a safe, supportive space for families in shelters or other inconsistent living situations to access to the internet for virtual learning – both K-12 students and adults.

The drop-in center, located in downtown Muskegon Heights, provides families with the ability to participate in virtual school, 1:1 tutoring for both students and adults, family literacy programming, daily meals and connection to social support services. 

By building trust with these families now, Read Muskegon and other local support services are creating relationships that will last beyond virtual learning and COVID — helping these families break the generational cycles of poverty.

This collaborative effort is different from some other programs because the adult is present with the child during remote learning.  This provides an opportunity to support family literacy in a variety of ways, including:

  • Ensuring the child participates in online classes and has hands-on support to fill learning gaps;
  • Supporting the parent/guardian in understanding how to help their child with learning even if their own literacy level isn’t high;
  • Connecting adults to learning opportunities like Read Muskegon tutoring, health and financial literacy, GED classes or jobs training;
  • And providing family programming that gives participants hands-on experience in how to incorporate literacy development into everyday activities. 

 This program was developed in partnership with Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, United Way, Read Muskegon, and the Coalition for Community Development. 

Together, we are serving the most at-risk families — preventing long-term learning loss and increasing access to community services that will help end generational cycles of illiteracy and poverty.

Reading is Power: Join our 2020 Fall Event

You can make a difference — and have fun!

The impact of COVID-19 continues to result in adults struggling to find employment and students working to transition to virtual learning. As a result, the requests for our services has continued to grow.

More than ever, our community members are reaching out for help to improve their own literacy skills. As many adults juggle being both parent and teacher, they recognize that in order to help their own kids with school, they need help themselves.

We hope you’ll join us this fall for #ReadingIsPower, a virtual fundraiser to support literacy programs in Muskegon County.

With your support, we can unlock the unique potential in each of our learners and build stronger, healthier families, workplaces, and communities.

The Read Muskegon Impact

Join the Event

Looking for some fall fun, while making a difference? Download our interactive activities below, and get reading! You’ll have a chance to win prizes to local businesses, too. Check out our event instructions for more information.

  • Bingo – dive into fall reading!
  • Crossword – test your Read Muskegon knowledge! Hint: use the video above to find your answers.

Our Statement on Systemic Racism



The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others have shocked and outraged people around the world. Sadly, these are just three names among thousands. At Read Muskegon, our board and staff stand united in condemning the systemic racism that allowed these killings to occur and that has silenced the voices of so many.

Literacy has long been used as a method of social control and oppression. Anti-literacy laws were put in place in the early 1800’s specifically making it illegal to teach slaves to read. Why were they so concerned about slaves learning to read? Because with this skill, slaves could access information through newspapers and books. They could understand their rights and organize against oppression. Slave owners wanted to keep their slaves uneducated because they understood that literacy represents power. Today, the lingering impact of these laws still surges through our black communities as they struggle disproportionately with illiteracy.

At Read Muskegon, our commitment is to ensure that every single person in Muskegon County has the opportunity to learn to read to the very best of their ability. That commitment has never stopped. But, in light of where we find our country today, it is more important than ever that we work side by side with our community partners to make sure that literacy is never a barrier but rather a powerful means to an impactful life. We will continue to use our platform, our knowledge, and our resources to be part of the solution to addressing systemic racism.

We Need Your Voice – March 26th Literacy Collaborative Convening

Read Muskegon Literacy Collaborative Convening

Thursday, March 26th, 9:00 -11:30

Hilt Building, 425 W. Western Ave, Muskegon


There is a literacy crisis in Muskegon County
and it is time to take dramatic, focused action to combat it.


Over the past 12 months, members of the Read Muskegon Literacy Collaborative have been working in partnership with the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) to assess the literacy landscape in Muskegon County through interviews, surveys and community focus groups. What did we find?  We’re doing a lot of things right and we’ve got a lot of great programs ready to support our communities.  But, we also found a lot of gaps in service and systemic challenges that are creating barriers to success for our most vulnerable learners, across their life span.

Join us on March 26th – 

  • Official release of findings from NCFL’s research
  • Updates from our first three Action Teams: Steering Committee, Public Awareness & Integrated Continuum of Services
  • Partner Networking & Marketplace: an opportunity to share ideas, form new action teams, and find out how you can be part of the change.


If you are interested in sharing relevant information during the Marketplace or have questions about the collaborative please contact Melissa Moore.  melissa.moore@readmuskegon.org or 231-830-5539


Read Muskegon Literacy Collaborative Steering Committee

  • Karen Blackledge – Muskegon Area District Libraries
  • LaTonya Beene – United Way
  • Tammy Britton – Talent 2025
  • Jane Clingman-Scott – Community Advocate
  • Jim Fisher – Second Act
  • Liz Garman – Baker College
  • DJ Hilson – Muskegon County Prosecutor
  • Jill Irwin – White Lake Community Education – Early Childhood
  • Logan Jensen – Mercy Health/CHIR
  • Cynthia Langlois – Muskegon Community College
  • Carl Lewis – Goodwill
  • Amy Moore – Community Foundation for Muskegon County
  • Melissa Moore – Read Muskegon
  • Kathy Rohlman – West MI Works!
  • Michelle Wahlberg – MAISD Literacy Coach
  • Pat Walstra – Region 4 Adult Education
  • Jonathan Wilson – DTE Energy/Read Muskegon Board Chair
  • Holly Windram – Michigan Reading Corps
  • Joe Zappocosta – Hackley Library

New Staff: Welcome Andre & Mike!

We are excited to welcome two new staff members to the Read Muskegon family.


Andre Pierce, Program Assistant

Andre brings a variety of skills and experiences to Read Muskegon that will be valuable in helping us to continue to grow our programs and reach those who most need our services.  A graduate of Muskegon Heights High School, Andre previously worked as a Community Health Connector for Hackley Community Care where he was responsible for connecting inmates in the Muskegon County Jail with critical resources that they would need upon release such as health care, insurance and housing.  At Read Muskegon, Andre will help us reach deeper into our local communities to recruit, train and support both learners and volunteers.  He will also help to coordinate our Family Literacy programs and the Project Fatherhood Book Club.


Mike Wyant, Adult Literacy Instructor

Mike brings years of classroom experience and a passion for teaching non-traditional learners to his new role at Read Muskegon.  He interjects his teaching with personal experiences like his love for history and his adventures at NASA’s Space Camp.  Mike teaches our Job Skills and English as a Second Language classes at Read Muskegon.  You’ll also find him out in the community teaching our workforce development & functional literacy classes at the EXIT program, Muskegon County Jail, and West MI Works.  On Tuesday evenings, he oversees our Drop-In Tutoring program for K-12 students and their parents.