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Literacy Collaborative Community Summit: What Happened? What Comes Next?

On February 23rd, over 100 community members joined together to focus their collective wisdom, creative problem-solving skills, and resources to tackle the literacy crisis that exists in Muskegon County.  Here’s a brief recap of the event and an opportunity to get involved.


Melissa Moore, Read Muskegon’s Executive Director, started by sharing some statistics to create a vision of the literacy landscape in Muskegon County. “Illiteracy is one of the most complex, interconnected, and deeply-rooted issues we face as a nation, ” Moore said. “It’s an issue of social justice, because those who cannot read cannot equally participate in our society.” She challenged attendees to be “disrupters” in the generational cycle of illiteracy.

Sharon Darling, founder and CEO of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), applauded Muskegon County for their collaborative efforts to tackle illiteracy and said she would like to see it become a model for the nation. She called literacy the stem of the flower whose petals are issues like welfare, health care, and criminal justice reform that rely on the strong base of literacy to keep blooming. She noted that while our country’s literacy statistics have been going backwards, we know what to do and the time is now to start doing it.

 

Poppy Sias-Hernandez, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Governor Whitmer, remarked that equity is the outcome of diversity and inclusion and that we need to continue our efforts to create equitable education and other systems that support everyone. She said that equity happens through collective efforts, when people bring their grit, talent and resources to the creation of solutions.

 

 

Rosa Guzman-Snyder, Director of Community Development for NCFL, presented a timeline of the work that has been done by the literacy collaborative and the vision for moving forward.  She set the stage for attendees to participate in breakout room conversations focused on 3 areas as they relate to tackling illiteracy: Economic Opportunity & Workforce Development: coordination of adult learning opportunities leading to family-sustaining wages, Education: mobilizing as a community to support our schools and ensure families have what they need to help their children succeed, and Neighborhoods & Community Leadership: utilizing existing networks to bridge the gap between needs and services. Input from the breakout sessions will be used by the collaborative work groups to create short and long-term action plans.

 

Breakout Session Summaries
You can read summaries of each of the sessions and the “BIG IDEAS” that started to emerge by clicking the links below.

Education Summary

Economic Opportunity Summary

Neighborhoods & Community Leadership Summary

 

Are YOU ready to be part of the SOLUTION? 

It’s going to take all of us working together to create real, sustainable change. Click the link below to sign up for a Read Muskegon Literacy Collaborative work group or to share a “Big Idea”.

 

CLICK HERE TO GET INVOLVED

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.

Read Muskegon Launches Countywide Literacy Collaborative

 

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.moore@readmuskegon.org.

 

 

Project Fatherhood Book Club

 

 

“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.

Click Here to Donate

 

Ribbon Cutting Marks Opening of Family Literacy Center

While Read Muskegon has been running programs from our new space at 26 E. Broadway since June, 2017, we marked the official opening of our new Family Literacy Center with a ribbon cutting ceremony in October.   Muskegon Heights Mayor, Kim Sims, and MAISD Superintendent, John Severson, spoke about the importance of our partnerships before the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce helped officiate the ribbon cutting.  We were thrilled to have so many members of our community join in our celebration.

 

Experience Read Muskegon: A Conversation About Literacy

 

                 

Join us at our new Family Literacy Center at 26 E. Broadway for a one-hour conversation. Learn how adult illiteracy is impacting our county. Find out how Read Muskegon is breaking generational cycles of illiteracy through customized programs that meet the unique needs of our learners. Tour our new location and learn how it will play a critical role in our mission.

June 22 8:30 am     June 22 4:30 pm

July 11 10:00 am     July 11 4:30 pm

July 20 8:00 am     July 20 5:00 pm

Aug 3 10:00 am     Aug 3 4:30 pm

RSVP to Tish Williams:

tish.williams@readmuskegon.org    231-747-7273

www.readmuskegon.org

 

 

 

 

Spring 2017 Newsletter

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter is all about our move to Muskegon Heights and the opening of our Family Literacy Center.  Click on the link below to read all about it!

 

Spring 2017 Newsletter

Read Muskegon to relocate to Downtown Muskegon Heights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Read Muskegon to relocate to Downtown Muskegon Heights

In partnership with the City of Muskegon Heights Downtown Development Authority, local non-profit organization Read Muskegon will open a Family Literacy Center at 26 East Broadway in the spring of 2017.  The center will act as a countywide hub for literacy with a focus on providing programming for low-literacy adults and their 0-5 year-old children.

Read Muskegon will be the first organization to partner with the Downtown Development Authority to invigorate commercial corridors in Muskegon Heights. As Read Muskegon brings its programs and administrative offices to the new site, it also brings its volunteers and partners, allowing them to see firsthand the opportunities that exist in the City.

According to Melissa Moore, President of Read Muskegon, “Opening a literacy center that is accessible to many of our learners with the most critical needs has been at the core of Read Muskegon’s long-term planning.  We are excited about all of the opportunities that relocating to the heart of the Muskegon Heights downtown will bring with it.”

The menu of services offered at the Literacy Center will include:

  • 1-1 tutoring
  • Small group classes focused on improving functional literacy, job readiness and instruction for parents on how to engage in early literacy development with their children
  • English as a Second Language small group class focused on job readiness, functional literacy and developing early literacy in children
  • Literacy based Play & Learn groups for low-literacy parents and 0-5 year-olds
  • Literacy based ABC’s of Cooking, a six-week parent and child healthy cooking workshop for low-literacy parents and 0-5 year-olds
  • Drop-in Literacy Lab tutoring
  • Family Reading Corner open 5 days a week

Additionally, Read Muskegon will offer community-based Family Literacy activities and book distribution at the Height’s Farmer’s Market, family movie nights, and other community events.

“The DDA Board has been extremely proactive in assisting the City with our economic development efforts, and will play a key role moving forward as we work to establish viability and diversity in our offerings downtown. We at the City of Muskegon Heights are thrilled to see Read Muskegon making an investment in our downtown, and are confident they will make a great impact in our community,” said City Manager Jake Eckholm.

One in six adults in the United States is functionally illiterate, reading at or below the 4th grade level.  In Muskegon County, that translates to more than 21,000 adults.  The adverse effects of illiteracy are felt in our economic, education, criminal justice, and health care systems.  Read Muskegon is focused on breaking the generational cycle of illiteracy by providing customized programs that meet the unique needs of their learners.

Contact:

Melissa Moore

231-830-5539

melissa.moore@readmuskegon.org

 

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7th Annual Scrabble FUNdraiser ~ March 5th

 

Join Us For The

7th Annual

scrabble logo

Saturday, March 5th, 6-9 pm

Watermark 920

 

scrabble fundraiser 3  scrabble wonks
scrabble fundraiser 2  scrabble best costume winner

 

Gather up your favorite Words With Friends addicts or your wordy co-workers
for an evening of friendly competition and a little bit of healthy local rivalry
all in support of Read Muskegon’s mission of creating
a more literate Muskegon County.
$100 registration fee for teams of 2-4 players.  
Includes a light dinner.
Cash bar ~ Raffle
Prizes for high and low score, highest single word score
and most creative team name/costumes

6:00 Check-in, Food & Drinks
7:00 Games Begin
Register online at www.readmuskegon.org

For more information please contact Louise at 231-769-5985 or louise.schaallema@readmuskegon.org