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Capital Region Adult Literacy Partnership

Hartford Public Library

Innovation Leader: Matthew K. Poland, Chief Executive Officer, mpoland@hplct.org

Problem Statement

The State of Connecticut is a land of great contrasts from great wealth to great poverty, from world class educational systems to failing schools. The level of literacy in the land of steady habits sits on a similar continuum -- 606,000 adults lacked sufficient literacy skills to be productive in the 21st century economy – that’s nearly 20% of the State’s population. That fact is startling enough, but the adults who cannot read in Hartford, the capital of the richest State in the Union, represent an estimated 65-70 percent of the City’s population. That contrast is catastrophic. And without a “jolt” to the systems (public, private, non-profit, and educational) that have failed to stem this rising tide, more adults will have insufficient literacy skills to prosper in our world.

Innovation

Hartford Public Library in collaboration with Capital Workforce Partners, Capital Region Educational Council, Greater Hartford Literacy Volunteers, regional Adult Boards of Education, and with generous support from Hartford Foundation for Public Giving developed a Capital Region Adult Literacy Plan in the fall of 2010. The key stakeholders have invited a broad range of providers, funders and policy makers to participate in building a powerful coalition to improve literacy skills in Hartford and throughout the region. The Library plays a key role in the governance of this new initiative and is advocating for broader public library involvement throughout the region and the State on behalf of the partnership. Alone our organizations have had isolated impact that is insufficient for large scale social change. So together with broad cross-sector coordination, positive impact is more likely.

Progress

The plan has gained widespread support in the Hartford region and at the State Capitol. The coalition has made several proposals to State leaders to endorse public policy change in the way adult literacy services are funded. State legislators are also considering establishing a pilot site, a laboratory, to create an environment where a wide range of providers work closely together on literacy initiatives. The coalition plans to establish a stretch goal that will serve as our beacon for achievement – the elimination of illiteracy in our region.