WASHINGTON - Pledging to set a new course of action over the next decade to combat one of America's most persistent and serious problems - the more than 44 million adults and children with low literacy levels - a group of prominent educators, researchers and business and nonprofit organization leaders will participate in an all-day summit on Nov. 14.
At the meeting, entitled Next Steps in Literacy Agenda: A National summit for Action, the participants will assess the current situation, identify effective approaches to address the problem of low literacy, and explore technology's role in literacy education.
"The world is changing at remarkable speeds, and those among us with low literacy skills risk being left further and further behind," noted Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon chairman and CEO, who will speak at the meeting. "At the Summit for Action we're hoping to spark a renewed sense of urgency in addressing this critical challenge to our nation, and set a course of action that will create new hopes and opportunities for more of our citizens."
Low literacy is an issue that affects children as well as adults. For example, the 2003 "Kids Count" report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that 70 percent of 4th graders in the U.S. scored below the reading proficient level. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that as the baby boom generation retires, the nation will have a shortage of 12 million qualified workers over the next decade. This will take place at a time when the majority of jobs require at least some communication, mathematics and computer abilities.
"Our nation is facing many challenges, but none of them is greater than the need to improve the literacy levels of children and adults," said Dr. Dale Lipschultz, president of the National Coalition for Literacy and literacy officer of the American Library Assn. "Without strong literacy skills, children will not succeed in school, adults will not contribute to a strong work force, and America will not be able to compete in the global economy."
"Literacy is the global currency, and we need to do everything in our power to make a more literate America a reality," she said.
John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, said, "Universities have a responsibility to address the issue of literacy rates both in the United States and around the world. We are pleased to host this gathering of business and educational leaders at Georgetown to help shape this important discussion."
Participants at the summit include: Raymond McNulty, executive director of Successful Practices Network, International Center for Leadership in Education, who will discuss the state of literacy, drawing on research he is currently conducting; John Comings, director of Harvard University's National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, who will also serve as a moderator; and Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Family Literacy.
The Verizon Foundation, which has invested $80 million over the past five years in partnerships and programs to help unlock the promise of literacy, will use the recommendations of the summit to implement a best-practices approach for future literacy efforts. The foundation has a variety of programs and a collaborative network of literacy partners, many represented at the summit, to reach children, adults and families with low literacy rates.
Georgetown University is also committed to improving literacy. The Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD) was established more than four decades ago to improve the quality of life for all children and youth, especially those with special needs and their families. The center both directly serves vulnerable children and their families, as well as influences local, state, national and international programs and policy. In October, the GUCCHD received a $17.5 million federal grant to develop a national training and assistance center for children's mental health to be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The Verizon Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. In 2004, the foundation awarded more than 26,000 grants totaling over $70 million to charitable and nonprofit agencies that focus on improving literacy, computer and technology skills, and identifying domestic violence solutions. The foundation uses its resources in the United States and abroad to develop partnerships in technology and connect them with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, and the economically and socially disadvantaged.
The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that last year encouraged Verizon employees to volunteer 528,000 hours in their communities and provided $37.6 million in combined contributions to charitable and nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), a Dow 30 company, is a leader in delivering broadband and other communication innovations to wireline and wireless customers. Verizon operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 49.3 million customers nationwide, and one of the nation's premier wireline networks, serving home, business and wholesale customers in 28 states. Based in New York, Verizon has a diverse workforce of nearly 215,000 and generates annual revenues of more than $71 billion from four business segments: Domestic Telecom, Domestic Wireless, Information Services and International. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.