Literacy Connects Aims to Improve Local Economy, Lives

By Brown, Ann | AZ Daily Star, March 3, 2019 | Go to article overview

Literacy Connects Aims to Improve Local Economy, Lives


Brown, Ann, AZ Daily Star


Literacy Connects percolated from a 2007 regional town hall, which identified increasing literacy as the best way to ensure a prosperous economy and improved quality of life for everyone.

Town hall participants were shocked by the appalling fact that only 23 percent of Americans read proficiently, says Betty Stauffer, executive director of Literacy Connects.

In Arizona, an estimated 530,000 adults read at or below a fifth-grade equivalent, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

Literacy has a direct link to economic development. Employers want a well-trained, qualified workforce. It also has an impact on everyday lives of those who must read and comprehend things like contracts, voter guides and notes from children’s teachers.

Literacy Connects emerged in July 2011 after many meetings, facilitated discussions and strategic planning sessions about the best way to offer quality literacy services. Five organizations merged: Literacy Volunteers of Tucson, Reading Seed, Reach Out and Read Southern Arizona, Literacy for Life Coalition and Stories That Soar.

Make Way for Books, an early childhood literacy nonprofit that helps prepare children for first grade, chose not to be part of the merger. Its programs complement Literacy Connects’ efforts, Stauffer says.

“It was hard to get people out of silos,” Stauffer says.

Facilitators helped Literacy Connects integrate the programs and the management team. The purchase and rehab of a building at 200 E. Yavapai Road, east of North Stone Avenue between Prince and Fort Lowell roads, completes the integration process by bringing all of the programs under the same roof.

Literacy connects has 28 employees; some are part-time, Stauffer says. The nonprofit’s operating budget is about $1.8 million, with funding coming from individual donations, businesses, foundations and community organizations, such as the Arizona Daily Star-sponsored Tucson Festival of Books. …

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