Literacy in Chicago

Literacy rates across the country 
  •  2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.
  • 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
  •  As of 2011, America was the only free-market OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less well educated than the previous.
  • Literacy is a learned skill. Illiteracy is passed down from parents who can neither read nor write.
  • Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, proving that there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime. More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.
  • 53% of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally while only 20% of 8th graders could say the same.
  • 75% of Americans who receive food stamps perform at the lowest 2 levels of literacy, and 90% of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  • Teenage girls 16 to 19 who live at or below the poverty level and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than the girls their age who can read proficiently.
  • Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry over $70 million every year.
  • 79% of CPS 8th graders are not grade-level proficient in reading according to the U.S. Department of Education.
What Chicago is trying to do to improve the literacy rates?
Opening these nonprofit bookstores called “Open Books” has over 50,000 books for sale and 10,000 of them are children’s books. It’s a very welcoming environment and is created primarily for low-income families so they have books at home that they are able to enjoy as well.
Literacy Chicago is a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals to achieve greater self-sufficiency through language and literacy instruction. Began in 1968 as 2 separate organizations then in 1992 came together to form a single, even stronger organization. 
“The Chicago Literacy Alliance includes organizations from all over the city. We envision a future in which 100% of Chicago land residents are functionally literate, and in which their shared literacy is a defining characteristic and point of pride for our home.”
Reason for the Literacy Alliance in Chicago
  • Low literacy affects entire communities and Chicago is no exception.
  • Cities children are likely to struggle in school and experience extremely high drop out rates
  • 53% of adults have low or limited literacy levels; struggle to find living wage jobs.
The Impact Chicago Literacy Alliance has had
  • This alliance reaches more than 14,400 early childhood/pre-kindergarten children
  • More than 184,00 k-8th grade students
  • More than 2,000 high school students
  • More than 1,000 ELL/ESL learners
  • More than 240,000 parents and families
  • More than 3,500 community members
  • More than 7,000 teachers
  • More than 500 adult learners
  • More than 3,600 volunteers and paraprofessionals
  • Work with hundreds of CPS schools representing every school in the district and nearly every neighborhood in Chicago
  • CLA donates 1.5 million books each year
  • More than 90% of CLA programs service low-income students and families
Chicago Public Schools created a reading instruction foundation to help students succeed beyond their high school years.
Chicago reading initiative is designed to ensure that all students have access to high quality instruction in reading.
Five major focus areas: 
  • A uniform instructional framework for teaching reading consisting of four major components: word knowledge, fluency, comprehension, and writing
  • A mandated 2 hours of literacy instruction (reading and writing) per day in elementary and high schools, and a focus on literacy instruction in all content areas
  • Extra support and reading specialists for schools with low performance or lack of progress
  • Development of high quality professional development opportunities for teachers and leadership teams in reading instruction, and implementation of the literacy framework
  • New materials and assessment tools, and extra support for all schools