About The Literacy Cooperative

How did The Literacy Cooperative get started?

The Literacy Cooperative began as a joint initiative of the Cleveland, George Gund and Martha Holden Jennings Foundations with a goal of addressing literacy levels, determining need, identifying solutions, and implementing a collaborative literacy plan to create an effective, seamless pathway for lifelong learning.

The planning for The Literacy Cooperative began in June of 2004 after the release of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy report that showed 69% of the adults in the city of Cleveland and 47% of the adults in Cuyahoga County had literacy levels below the eighth grade. Representatives of the aforementioned foundations brought together more than 300 individuals representing 250 organizations to better understand literacy services and practices in our community. Collectively, the group came to a consensus on two key recommendations – develop an action plan and create a collaborative organization to carry out the plan. The collaborative organization ultimately became The Literacy Cooperative. The Literacy Cooperative became operational in February 2006 under the administrative support of Suite 1300 Services, an incubator agency of The Cleveland Foundation. In May of 2009 The Literacy Cooperative obtained its 501c3 status.

The Literacy Cooperative’s mission is to work to advance literacy by raising awareness of the issue, promoting effective public advocacy, and fostering a delivery system with maximum impact on our region. Aiming to hold up the highest standards in the field, The Literacy Cooperative addresses low literacy levels in Greater Cleveland by bridging current gaps in the education continuum and support availability; allowing for children and adults in Greater Cleveland to reach their highest literacy potential for employment, self-sufficiency, and lifelong learning. For more than a decade, we’ve been bringing the community, agencies, and stakeholders together to maximize shared outcomes, help learners lift themselves out of poverty and deliver greater return on investment.

What does The Literacy Cooperative do?

The Literacy Cooperative is uniquely qualified to maximize opportunities and provide the literacy leadership needed for real systemic change.

Our History of Success Includes:

  • Introducing The Dolly Parton Imagination Library to several Cuyahoga County communities to assist families in creating a library of their own
  • Coordinating of Reach Out and Read – Greater Cleveland to ensure health care providers and volunteers share a book and model reading aloud to encourage parents to read to their children
  • Incubating an essential new kindergarten reading intervention (SPARK) and transitioning it to Invest in Children for maximum impact
  • Implementing superior volunteer tutoring practices (STEP)
  • Leading the development of industry-specific contextualized curriculum to increase literacy levels for low-literate adults and enable them to access career pathways
  • Connecting employers (including University Hospitals of Cleveland) with literacy services
  • Neutralizing traditional service silos (through NEO Skill Corps) for increased synergy between providers

Our Day-to-Day Vision Incorporates:

  • Creating career pathway entry points for greater equality
  • Aligning resources and services for greater ROI
  • Harnessing the transformative power of greater literacy

The Literacy Cooperative has proven success as a change agent.

Why are literacy skills important to the community?

Literacy skills affect parent-child interaction, school performance, graduation rates, employment opportunities, earnings and the quality of life in our communities. Today, people require more sophisticated skills than ever before to navigate health and financial systems, cope with advanced technology and meet the demands of more high-skilled jobs.

Strong literacy skills are necessary to help people reach their potential in their roles as family members, employees and citizens.  Literacy is fundamental to active citizenship and full participation in a democratic society.

Equally, important, a literate workforce attracts and retains enterprises that offer jobs with benefits and higher wages, thereby creating a stronger economy for Greater Cleveland. Nationally, low literacy skills cost businesses and taxpayers $20 billion in lost wages, profits and productivity annually. Greater Cleveland cannot afford the costs that accompany low literacy.

What are the five literacy levels?

The federal government measures adult literacy in five levels.

People with Level 1 Literacy can:

  • Locate one piece of information in a sports article
  • Locate the expiration date on a driver’s license
  • Total a bank deposit entry

People with Level 2 Literacy can:

  • Interpret appliance warranty instructions
  • Locate an intersection on a street map
  • Calculate postage and fees when using certified mail

People with Level 3 Literacy can:

  • Write a brief letter to explain a credit card billing error
  • Use a bus schedule to choose the correct bus to take to get to work on time
  • Determine the discount on a car insurance bill if paid in full within 15 days

People with Level 4 Literacy can:

  • Explain the difference between two types of benefits at work
  • Calculate the correct change when given prices on a menu

People with Level 5 Literacy can:

  • Compare and summarize different approaches lawyers use during a trial
  • Use information in a table to compare two credit cards and explain the differences
  • Compute the cost to carpet a room in a house