Milwaukee's effort to combat adult illiteracy

Thousands still struggle to read and write
Posted at 6:28 AM, Sep 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-14 08:30:48-04

MILWAUKEE -- As kids head back to school teachers and families are focused on making sure students grasp their work; setting them up for a successful school year and life. But, there is also a push to make sure their parents, grandparents and other adults are being educated as well.
TODAY'S TMJ4 caught up with Sonny Daniels as he worked with his tutor Kate at Literacy Services of Wisconsin.  The two have been working on spelling, reading and sounding out words for the last couple years.

“If you don't how to read or count in this world,  they gonna’ take advantage of you,” said Daniels.
As a kid, Sonny didn't grasp reading in school and dropped out. In his 30's, he’s struggled to read things like menus, signs on buildings and job applications. He would often ask for help.
“Then I would feel ashamed afterward,” said Daniels.
Sonny is far from alone. Ginger Duiven, with Literacy Services of Wisconsin, says about 500 adults a year are tutored just at one location on Plankinton.
“Students walk in the first time; their eyes are down on the floor, shoulders are slumped, and in months they are smiling. holding their head high,” said Duiven.
An estimated 60,000 Milwaukee adults can't read at a third-grade level. Much more aren't reading past fifth, seventh, and ninth grades. In the state of Wisconsin, the number jumps to one million and a half adults.

Marsha Connet, with Wisconsin Literacy Incorporated, provides support to 75 state wide centers. Connet believes this problem has a direct link to poverty for the greater community.

“When you don't know where your rent money and grocery money is coming from, it’s hard going out to have a literacy lesson or showing up at school every day,” said Connet.
The centers are hoping to change that. They work one-on-one with students on an open-ended curriculum, not tied to a date. At the centers, they graduate, when they get it.

“It's transformative and one of the most moving things I've ever witnessed,” said Duiven.

 There are 75 centers statewide that provide adult tutoring, 17 are in the city of Milwaukee.Those centers get some support from the state but mainly operate from private donations.

If you would like to donate or volunteer contact Literacy Services of Wisconsin,