The importance of building literacy in Genesee County 

In Genesee County, 20% of people over the age of sixteen read at or below a level 1 outcome – who can be considered at risk for difficulties using or comprehending print material – according to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies through the National Center for Education Statistics.  

Vincent Slocum, executive director of the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network, expands upon what that means for our community. 

“At the county level, one out of every five adults over 25 lack basic literacy to fill out a job application or read a book to a child,” says Slocum. “In Flint, that is one out of three. This presents an economic and social barrier for these individuals, but more than that, parents can’t give literacy skills to their children if they don’t have them themselves.” 

However, the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network is working hard to combat these statistics. The organization focuses on two major areas: early childhood/family literacy and adult basic education. The group works with partners at the county level to provide services to families to help close literacy gaps. Partners include community centers, libraries, school districts, and grassroots providers such as churches.  

In Genesee County, 13 learning centers work with the Literacy Network. The organization works to provide curriculum, technical support, recruitment, and training services so that these centers can work with adult learning in the community with one-on-one training and coaching.  

“Through our networks, our partners serve anywhere from 300 to 400 students a year,” says Slocum. “Beyond that, we provide digital learning resources for adult learning in our community to an additional 100 students.” 

The reason why the Literacy Network takes a “network” approach is because the grassroots partners, often community centers or churches, are trusted sites for individuals who may struggle with literacy but may not know where to find help.  

“One thing we know from experience and research is that struggling learners who have reached adulthood have become exceptionally good at hiding that fact,” says Slocum. “We take it as a given if someone has reached adulthood and made it through school that they can read, but we are learning that isn’t the case.” 

For these reasons, Slocum and his team are intentional about seeking to find those learners in order to connect them to their network of providers.  

Those who are struggling or know someone who is struggling with literacy can connect to the Literacy Network, which can act as a bridge to get that person the assistance they need.  

As for what the community can do to help continue to support literacy in Genesee County, Slocum says two things are important.  

“First would be to volunteer to be a tutor, most people think you need to be a teacher, but you just need to know how to read and have patience for others,” says Slocum. “The second is to read a book to a child in your life and make that a regular habit, whether it’s your own kid, your neighbor’s, or nieces or nephews, most of the skills a child learns happen outside the classroom.” 

For more information or to find literacy resources, visit