Press Releases


Washtenaw Literacy Publication Relates Literacy to Achievement

and Community Health

Low-literacy impacts family, poverty levels, homelessness, and employment opportunities


March 12, 2014 (ANN ARBOR, Mich.) – A new publication from Washtenaw Literacy explores the impact of illiteracy on lifestyle and overall community health in one of Michigan’s most highly educated counties. The Impact of Adult Illiteracy in Washtenaw County was inspired by the recent worldwide assessment of adult literacy by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which confirms that low literacy is getting worse in the United States, just as investments in adult education have hit a ten-year low. Author Amy Goodman, Executive Director of Washtenaw Literacy, relates this sobering data to the illiteracy challenges faced within Washtenaw County, highlighting the importance of accelerating efforts to improve literacy levels. Non-profit Washtenaw Literacy is Michigan’s oldest and most productive literacy agency, having served more than 20,000 adults with tutoring for basic reading and writing skills.


“As a root cause of poverty, low literacy skills contribute to homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment, poor health outcomes, poor civic involvement, and weak parenting skills,” said Goodman. “Illiteracy is a hidden cost of living we all bear.”

By international standards, the basic skills of adults in the United States are relatively weak. Unlike many other countries, there has been little sign of improvement in recent decades. Mirroring this data, the problem of Illiteracy in Washtenaw County is growing. The last county-level survey in 2003 (National Adult Literacy Survey, NALS) estimated that one in six Washtenaw County adults, about 27,000, did not have skills sufficient to hold a family-sustaining job, read a map or prescription labels, or fill out an application or form. Washtenaw Literacy’s learner population is described in The Impact of Adult Illiteracy in Washtenaw County, providing a more personal view of low-literate citizens: mostly moms, underemployed and living below the poverty line. 

Washtenaw Literacy operates with a large contingent of volunteers, providing opportunities for all citizens to take charge and end illiteracy in the county. A variety of training events will enlist volunteers to become tutors and fundraisers such as Support Literacy Now in May and Driving Literacy in October provide fun ways to support the work of Washtenaw Literacy. “There are many ways to help,” said Goodman. “Tutoring, financial contributions, committee work, corporate sponsorships, and in-kind support… It will take all of this and more to help end adult illiteracy in Washtenaw County and the stakes are high. When adults improve their literacy skills they become more productive employees, more engaged parents, and more responsible health care consumers. The opportunity to teach adults who are ready to learn is one we can't afford to miss.”

Washtenaw Literacy’s website ( provides details on how to join the fight against illiteracy.

About Washtenaw Literacy

Washtenaw Literacy’s purpose is straightforward: we help adults change their lives through literacy. Since 1971 our organization has been devoted to helping men and women improve their reading, writing and English-as-a-Second-Language skills.

Our core program is one-on-one tutoring. This is the approach our first volunteer tutors used in 1971. The reason we still use it today is because it works. Over 90% of adults in our one-on-one tutoring program reach one or more of their goals. Part of this success stems from our “designer tutor” approach. We train each of our volunteer tutors to plan lessons according to the learner’s strengths, needs and goals. Adult learners in our program are motivated because they are setting, and meeting, their own standards for success.

This focus on individual goals makes our program unique in the county. Washtenaw Literacy is a critical part of our community’s educational continuum. Someday we hope to have no need for our services. Until then, we’ll support our volunteer tutors as they help low-literate men and women improve their skills and their lives.


Media Contact:

Beth Dempsey

For Washtenaw Literacy

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 248.349.7810