September is National Literacy Month, and Reading to New Heights is using this month to get the word out about their programming to help adults.
“Texas has the fourth-lowest literacy rate in the country at eighteen percent. Nineteen percent of adults lack basic literacy skills,” Deidra Mayberry, co-founder and executive director of Reading to New Heights said. “To break that down even further, one in five adults in Dallas cannot read well enough to succeed at a fourth grade reading level.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of U.S. adults 16 to 74 years old, that's about 130 million people, lack proficiency in literacy. The Dallas-based nonprofit is trying to fill in the gaps where many adults are struggling.
“We are trying to get them to leave our program at least at a 9th-grade reading level or better. That alone will help them get their GED, college degree, technical training or improve their skills in the workplace,” Mayberry said.
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Reading to New Heights was recently featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show, where Mayberry talked about her own struggles with reading proficiently as an adult.
“I was able to graduate college and start my career at HEB despite struggling with shame and challenges from being functionally illiterate," Mayberry said. "It’s uncomfortable. Often times, people don’t get the help they need because they are embarrassed to come forward and ask for it. They have just been getting by for so long. We want to change that."
She said they launched the program in March 2022, just one day before the country shut down during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it has been a challenge, they pushed forward with their mission to help as many adults as possible.
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“Reading to New Heights is serving 40 adults right now with nearly a dozen teacher-certified volunteers. We’re all working together to make this happen,” Mayberry said.