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Budish and The Literacy Cooperative Join for International Literacy Day

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Donisha Greene: (216) 443-7075 or dgreene@cuyahogacounty.us
Laureen Atkins: (216) 776-6185 or latkins@literacycooperative.org

Over 400,000 adults in Cuyahoga County are at or below a seventh-grade comprehension level

Cleveland, OH – Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and the Literacy Cooperative joined today in honor of International Literacy Day to discuss challenges and opportunities that exist in Cuyahoga County for over 400,000 adults with low literacy that have difficulty reading a prescription or completing a job application. The featured speaker was Jeff Conyers, Executive Director of The Dollywood Foundation whose featured program is Imagination Library.

Nearly 125 people gathered to hear from literacy advocates concerning the challenges faced by many in our community who are not able to read or write adequately or do simple math problems, as well as some of the programs and resources in the community to address these difficulties.

“Low literacy and a lack of workforce skills are a barrier to progress on social priorities that exist in our region.” said County Executive Budish. “Reducing poverty, promoting public health, and helping people find better jobs remain at the forefront of this administration and we are committed to finding solutions that connect our most vulnerable citizens to the skills they need to succeed.”

International Literacy Day is a world-wide awareness campaign founded fifty years ago by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. Improving literacy leads directly to advancing economies, health and social equality.

The Dollywood Foundation and Imagination Library have achieved dramatic results. In the twenty years since its founding by Dolly Parton, Imagination Library has mailed sixty million high-quality, age-appropriate books to children in more than 1600 local communities, and 750,000 children are now receiving a new book each and every month. Statistics and independent reports have shown Dolly Parton's Imagination Library drastically improves early childhood literacy for children enrolled in the program. Conyers is hoping to establish a Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in Greater Cleveland.

Robert Paponetti, Executive Director of The Literacy Cooperative, sponsor of the luncheon, said, “International Literacy Day events take place around the world, but we are focused on the needs right here in our community, where 80% of Cleveland children beginning kindergarten are not fully prepared - and adults who have low literacy skills are not able to access job training programs that lead to family sustaining wages. The investments we make in programs for children, as well as work-place education for adults, are critical to improving the quality of life for everyone.

The Literacy Cooperative provides literacy leadership to improve the quality and connectivity of early literacy, parent engagement, and adult literacy and workforce development services that lead to systemic changes. The Literacy Cooperative’s convening, demonstrating, and advocacy supports providers to deliver better coordinated services to children and adults.