Bush Literacy Foundation working to fix literacy ‘crisis’ in Houston

On this National Reading Across America Day, we’re spotlighting the importance of literacy and the challenges it has faced in the pandemic--not just for children.

A huge number of adults in Harris County also can’t read. One in three adults can’t read past a sixth grade level in this city, according to Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation president Dr. Julie Finck. Her foundation is working to improve that number and also, as she put it, reverse the damage that a year of virtual learning has done to children’s literacy.

"We were making progress—just slight incremental progress—with childhood literacy rates," said Finck. "Because of the pandemic we’ve lost all of that ground."

Children’s ability to read and write has taken a hit from the year-long pandemic forced children away from their teachers and into a virtual learning setting.

Mom and author focusing on mental health in new children’s books

Like many of us, Nkem DenChukwu has had more spare time than usual during the pandemic. She has taken advantage of that by writing and publishing five children's books with a special focus on healthy minds.

Finck is pushing for the full return to in-person learning in order to improve literacy rates.

"We need to make sure that our public education system is open for parents to have that choice to send their kid back to school," said Finck.
The literacy foundation was founded in 2013 to address a crisis of literacy in Houston, and that includes adults. They’ve newly partnered with the city of Houston to help educate an overwhelming number of adults who can’t read.

"One in three Harris County adults are functionally illiterate," said Finck. "We must—it’s an economic and social imperative that we not only support children at this time, but we support adults."

She says the program will be taking shape this year with the goal of breaking the intergenerational cycle of illiteracy.

"When you have an adult who is low literate, it is more likely that their child will not read at a high level," said Finck.

Many Houston-area school districts still requiring masks despite governor's order

In light of the announcement from Texas Governor Greg Abbott to lift the statewide mask mandate next Wednesday, many school districts are still requiring masks for their students. 

Susan Green is one Houston ISD parent who worked to incorporate reading in her son’s routine from an early age.

"Literacy means everything to me," said Green.

He’s now in 10th grade, and Green believes that foundation has made a difference in his grades.

"Bedtime reading is an ideal situation," said Green. "Your child is relaxing. It’s a closeness you can provide to your child. It’s a memory they’ll have forever…and to keep trying. Eventually, your children will come to love reading."