Thoughts from Leadership: The Importance of Literacy in Education


By Dr. Kimberly Leverette

Working in education for many years, I have experienced firsthand the ways in which proficient literacy positively affects students, schools and communities.

According to the Literacy Project Foundation, 50 percent of adults cannot read above an eighth-grade reading level—which results in negative outcomes later in life. ProLiteracy, an international nonprofit organization that supports adult literacy programs, reports that “individuals at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels have a higher rate of unemployment and earn lower wages than the national average.”

To ensure students can become successful adults, we must invest our time into assessing and building proficient literacy. This is why the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce Education & Training team builds literacy into every program we administer.

This starts as early as YouthQuest, which serves youth in grades K-12. Whether students are learning math, science or social studies, they are also learning how to read, write, comprehend and communicate.

Additionally, literacy is reinforced in our TeenQuest pre-employment training program. TeenQuest students focus on the importance of communication, both written and verbal. When TeenQuest facilitators review students’ work, they assess literacy levels and will inform the students’ teachers if they sense they’re falling behind.

Finally, with the Flint Promise scholarship, students are assigned success coaches who are available to help encourage students, connect them with resources and make their transition from high school to college a seamless experience. These coaches also help to identify students’ needs so they can be connected to resources—such as tutoring.

We will continue to look for ways to prioritize literacy in our programming as we support our talent pipeline from cradle to career. This focus will help build our community by preparing our children to be successful adults.

Dr. Kimberly Leverette is the executive director of Education & Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.