DETROIT (WWJ) – A new coalition of business, civic, educational, philanthropic and media partners began an unprecedented campaign this month to improve reading skills among adults in metropolitan Detroit, where reports have shown that 47 percent of the city’s population are “functionally illiterate.”

The “Reading Works” campaign is raising money and seeking volunteers to support nine agencies in the region that provide instruction for adults who want to learn to read, or to read better. The effort is seen as key to improving the work force in the Detroit area to attract employers and fill available jobs that require reading skills.

After a decade-long recession and the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs, the area’s unemployment rate is around 13 percent.

Susie Schechter, Reading Works executive director, said Metro Detroit has far too many functionally illiterate adults, often below a fifth-grade level, unable to complete a job application or read to their children.

“It’s time to do something different, face up to functional illiteracy in adults, support the agencies’ earnest efforts, and address the problem realistically,” Schechter said in a written statement.

The goal of Reading Works is “80 by ’20, which is 80 percent of adults in Metro Detroit functionally literate at a minimum 9th grade level by 2020.

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