Ameritech Grant Boosts Literacy in Michigan

Ten Michigan Literacy Councils Share $100, 000 Grant

        DETROIT - Shocking statistics show 18 percent of Michigan's adult population cannot read this article, take a computer training course at work, or even read a book to a child because they are at the lowest literacy level. Ameritech, Michigan Literacy Inc. (MLI) and ten of its member councils have combined resources to improve literacy in Michigan through the Ameritech Literacy Project. A $100,000 grant to MLI supports a novel collaborative approach to developing resources for new readers and volunteers from Ameritech.

        "With advances in technology, the definition of literacy has evolved," said Levona Whitaker, executive director of MLI. "It's not enough to be able to read and write at a basic level. Today's adults must be computer and Internet literate in order to meet the demands of work and family. Ameritech's grant will help us do so much more to improve Michigan's literacy quotient."

        According to Whitaker, a ten-member consortium of literacy councils have come up with an innovative use of computers and the Internet to recruit and train volunteer tutors in a less time-consuming and labor-intensive way. Ameritech's contribution will support the group's efforts to improve basic reading skills, family and adult literacy, and English as a second language as well.

        "As a leader in telecommunications technology, we're eager to take a leadership role in helping to wipe out illiteracy," said Bob Cooper, president of Ameritech Michigan. "The consortium of literacy councils in Michigan have fantastic plans for the grant. It's very rewarding to know that our support translates to more adults reading stories to their children, surfing the net with their teen, or going back to school to get that long-desired degree."

        A statewide Ameritech Literacy Hotline will be established to keep students in touch with their local literacy council and to recruit volunteers. In addition, various educational programs - for training volunteers and aiding new readers - will be developed and made available on the Michigan Literacy Web site at Literacy councils with limited access to technology will receive hard copies of the online resources thanks to Ameritech"s generous gift. One-on-one workshops also will be conducted at councils throughout the state.

        The Ameritech Literacy Project consortium members are: Macomb Literacy Partners, Washtenaw Literacy Council, Family Literacy Center-Lapeer, Kent County Literacy Council, Dominican Literacy Center, Detroit Bendle/Carman Ainsworth Learning Community School, Flint Michigan Literacy Inc., Detroit Literacy Coalition, Grand Traverse Area Literacy Council, and Ionia County Literacy Council.

        Each project partner has a special literacy focus. In Flint, the grant will create the Ameritech Family Literacy Lab, where families can go at night and on weekends to use the new computers and literacy software. Family literacy also will be the focus of the Detroit, Lapeer, and Traverse City councils. In Kent County, the programs will help K-12 students read at or above their grade level. Adult literacy will be the primary effort of the Macomb Literacy Partners and the Dominican Literacy Center. Washtenaw Literacy Council is committed, to developing English as a second language materials and an Adult New Reader webpage. The Ameritech Family Literacy and Empowerment Program in Detroit, launched in 1997, will be expanded to improve the literacy of even more African- American and immigrant students.

Ameritech (NYSE: AIT) has a strong tradition of giving back to the communities it serves. Last year, the company contributed nearly $27.2 million to over 3,800 nonprofit organizations, and Ameritech Pioneers - some 42,700 employees and retirees throughout the Midwest - volunteered 482,000 hours of community service by supporting health and human services, civic and community projects, and educational and arts programs. Ameritech provides a full range of communications services, serving millions of customers in 50 states and 40 countries.