Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.
Ken Lampar is the director of Macomb Literacy Partners, a program that helps adults learn to read and improve their literacy skills.
Nearly 70,000 adults in Macomb County are functionally illiterate, meaning they can’t perform tasks like filling out a job application or reading a perscription. Though literacy rates vary across the state, an estimated 8% of adults in Michigan lack basic reading skills.
Improving adult literacy has payoffs at individual and community levels. Lampar, a former administrator for the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, says that illiteracy and crime are closely related. Prisoner illiteracy rates in the US are significantly higher than those among household populations.
“Oftentimes it goes back to core issues of just personal self worth. If a person cannot read, a person cannot communicate, a person feels hopeless in a community and they often turn to crime,” Lampar says.
The goals of program participants vary—some want jobs; others are immigrants, grandparents who want to better communicate with english-speaking grandchildren and integrate into their communities.
In addition to offering teaching services, Macomb Literacy Partners facilitates weekly “Community Conversations,” where adults learning to read can practice their skills and discuss reading goals.