The results released in September 2022 showed that one-third (more than 200) of Ohio’s 609 school districts did not meet statewide standards for reading proficiency. Lower ratings typically clustered around urban and downtown areas of major cities, whereas higher ratings occurred mostly in suburban areas.
While the focus of literacy research and programming tends to focus on early childhood, literacy is a generational issue, reaching from young to old. In Lucas County, 140,000 adults read at or below a basic level, meaning they are unable to read the newspaper, fill out job applications or help their children with homework.
In addition to socioeconomic status, another factor that corresponds with low literacy rates is the geographic segregation of people of color. Compared to their white peers, children of color tend to make up larger proportions of the population where reading proficiency is low.
If literacy is a predictor of one’s personal success, it’s just as much a predictor of the health and well-being of our communities. So what’s the key to stemming “brain drain” and strengthening the image and stability of cities across the Rust Belt? How do we cultivate a healthy and thriving ecosystem to produce and retain higher educated, young professionals and provide better opportunities?
According to local educational leaders, efforts to improve literacy are not just for Toledo’s children to be good readers, but for them to become thinkers, givers and contributors to our region.
Indeed, there is a joy felt when the light switches on and a whole new world is opened up — and a parallel joy in turning on the light of learning in others. One by one, these efforts have the potential to make a whole region bright — bright with new prospects, opportunity and hope.