Literacy signs going up in Durham

The eye-catching signs contain a bold claim that 65 percent of Durham students failed a reading test.
March 27, 2014 3:23:03 PM PDT
Eye-catching signs are starting to pop-up in the Bull City. Their message contains a bold claim that 65 percent of Durham students failed a reading test.

The signs are in a foreign language, and the people behind the signs are mothers who wanted to change the conversation headed into the Durham School Board elections.

The signs have Durham drivers doing a double take.

"That's what all signs look like to people who can't read," said Mary Carey, with Bootstraps PAC.

Weeks away from the May election, Carey is on a mission with the help of the political action committee Bootstraps.

"If you can't read, if somebody tells you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you don't have bootstraps that you can pull up. So we have to provide this basic foundation," Carey said.

Foundations 65 percent of Durham third through eighth graders are missing, according to state educators. They failed their reading test and experts say as adults, they could face the same challenges.

"They pass you along just to get you out of class," said student Laverne Allen.

That brought Allen to the Durham Literacy Center.

"I'm just trying to be me to make my mark in this world so that my son and my grandson could be proud of me," Allen said.

Allen works with a tutor to improve her reading and ultimately the bottom line of her cleaning service business.

"You need more people educated so that they can contribute and build a stronger society" said Durham Literacy Center Director Reginald Hodges.

However, to do that, Hodges and Carey say voters need to be aware of the impact illiteracy has on the community as they head to the polls.

This year's ballot is packed with 13 Durham School Board candidates.

"Our hope is that the school board candidates will really investigate the remediations and try to investigate the community ... engaging all segments of society ... everyone to make sure these numbers change," Carey said.

Volunteers are the other way to make this number change.

"We need thousands...we need every retiree in the Triangle in schools next week," Carey said.

In Durham, 25,000 adults are functionally illiterate. So there is also a need for volunteers at centers like Durham Literacy Center.

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