March is National Reading Month, and it is a great time to think about the effects of literacy in our community. Literacy is something I take very seriously. As the chair-elect of the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network, I have a unique view of the effects of literacy and the how it can be addressed in our community.
The Flint & Genesee Literacy Network defines literacy as, “An individual’s ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on a job, in the family of the individual and in society.”
I value this definition, as it encompasses more than the ability to read and provides a broader picture of what literacy means.
At the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, a large part of the work we do to instill literacy is through our Education & Training programs.
YouthQuest, the Chamber’s afterschool program serves students from first grade through high school at Flint Community Schools and International Academy of Flint. Through this program, our staff works closely with students using interactive lessons that help with academic success. YouthQuest also provides essential resources for the community it serves.
Currently, YouthQuest families are receiving monthly food boxes through a partnership with Flint Fresh and, in March, students will also receive books and literacy activity packets with the delivery. These activity packets are designed for parents and students to work together to foster a habit of reading.
Other ways we continue to instill literacy is through our workforce development programs. TeenQuest, a pre-employment and leadership training program for students ages 14 – 18, builds lessons around financial and workplace literacy.
These skills that we instill, including professionalism, communication and ambition, are ones that students can carry with them throughout their lives.
However, the concept of literacy is vast and overarching; it touches all parts of our lives.
Therefore, the work is bigger than any one organization. The Flint & Genesee Literacy Network knows this, partnering with other local organizations to ensure it serves all members of our community with programs such as Flint Kids Read, Summer Learning Week, Flint Family Literacy and Adult Learning Centers.
Other organizations are working toward the same goal. The Genesee Intermediate School District recently announced its Mobile Education Lab (MEL), a refurbished school bus that is equipped with computer workstations and Wi-Fi, as well as access to housing and food resources, mental health and healthcare, and other educational resources. The MEL makes stops in communities throughout Genesee County and provides free books and literacy tips to students and families.
Together, we can help ensure that all members of our community have the proficient literacy skills they need. You can help, by starting at home. This month be sure to read together as a family to begin building life-long literacy habits for you and your children.
Kristina Johnston is the Chief Operating Officer at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.