Muskegon County is clearly on the move, but over 20,000 adults in our community are at a virtual standstill because they cannot read well enough to fill out a job or housing application, read safety information in the workplace, follow healthcare instructions, or read to their children and grandchildren. The literacy statistics are even more staggering for our children. Less than 50% of our 5-year-olds enter kindergarten ready to learn and more than 60% of our incoming 4th graders are not reading at grade level.
There is a literacy crisis in Muskegon County and it is time to take dramatic, focused action to combat it.
We know that no single education system, government agency or non-profit organization can independently resolve this issue. That’s why Read Muskegon is leading a countywide effort to develop a results-oriented literacy collaborative dedicated to combating the illiteracy crisis through collective impact. Together, Read Muskegon and its extensive network of collaborative partners are focused on ensuring that all individuals in need of improved literacy skills, no matter their age, have access to the information and resources they need to succeed.
The collaborative includes a broad spectrum of community partners including: the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, Community Foundation for Muskegon County, MI Reading Corps, Mercy Health – Community Health Project, Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office, Muskegon Community College, Baker College, Goodwill, United Way, Talent 2025, Chamber of Commerce, Region 4 Adult Education, West MI Works, White Lake Community Education, Muskegon Area District Libraries, Hackely Public Library, Urban League, and city & state government officials. Equally as important, we are actively engaging resident voices as members and leaders of the collaborative.
Over the past 12 months, collaborative members have been working in partnership with the National Center for Families Learning 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.
85 individuals gathered last September to review the findings and prioritize next steps. As a result, three initial action teams were formed. The Collaborative Steering Committee has been focused on creating the mission, vision and structure for the group. The Public Awareness team will work on creating a campaign to increase the general public understanding of illiteracy and connect community members to services. The Integrated Continuum of Services team is working to ensure a seamless transition from birth through adult literacy supports with a focus on family literacy and breaking generational cycles.
The next meeting of the collaborative will take place on Thursday, March 26th, from 9:30-12:00. If you are interested in more information, please contact Melissa Moore. 231-830-5539 or Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Just because it’s easier to build strong children than repair broken men, doesn’t mean we leave men broken.” – Jason Wilson, Cry Like A Man
Literacy is about more than the ability to read words. It’s about using the power of those words to change the course of your life: to participate in your community, to achieve your goals, to create a better future for your children. That is the foundation of the Project Fatherhood Book Club, a weekly gathering of fathers hosted by Read Muskegon that engages men in reading books that provoke intense and often difficult conversations with a goal of changing life outcomes for the participants, their children and their larger community.
In 2010, former gang member turned community activist Big Mike Cummings asked UCLA gang expert Jorja Leap to co-lead a group of men struggling to be better fathers in Watts, South LA, a neighborhood long burdened with a legacy of racialized poverty, violence, and incarceration. These men came together each week to help one another answer the question ‘How can I be a good father when I’ve never had one?’ The book Project Fatherhood follows the lives of the men as they struggle with the pain of their own losses, the pressures of poverty and unemployment, and the desire to do better for the next generation. Recognizing similar struggles exist for men here in Muskegon County, the book became the inspiration for Read Muskegon’s Project Fatherhood Book Club.
The Project Fatherhood Book Club began in 2019 with a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion grant from the Anton Family Fund of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. They funded the first 8-week session. As the group grew, the dads let us know that the book club needed to continue. Read Muskegon, along with our partner, Dads on Deck, has committed to making that happen. Our focus is to empower participants to break the generational cycles of illiteracy, incarceration and poverty.
The Project Fatherhood Book Club meets in 8-week sessions with each session focused on a book selected by the participants. Shared reading aloud from the book, discussion, and journaling are be incorporated into each session with a focus on using written text as the catalyst for processing difficult issues, expressing thoughts and feelings in a constructive manner, and setting personal goals. Read Muskegon’s instructor facilitates the process of shared reading in a way that is sensitive to all reading levels. Each week also incorporates a guest speaker or shared information that focuses on one of the social determinants of health such as: the importance of physical & mental health, cooperative parenting, father activity/fun time, financial literacy & stability, advocacy and engagement in children’s education. Participants who would like to receive extra reading support can meet one on one with a Read Muskegon tutor or staff member.
We need the financial support of our community to make this happen. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to support the book club through 2020. Funds will cover books, food, facilitators, materials, and family & community events developed by the dads. Please consider supporting this group of fathers who are working hard to change the outcomes for the next generation.
Read Muskegon’s Holiday Village was a huge success. This year’s event was held at Covenant Community Church. Over 100 of our neighbors participated in 10 village stations that were designed to help build early literacy skills. Santa made sure each child got a stack of books to bring home along with the ornaments and cookies they decorated. Thanks to our friends at Read Early Read Often for donating the beautiful books!