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Area programs a response to link between literacy, incarceration

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Research shows a link between illiteracy and incarceration. In fact, 85 percent of juvenile offenders have problems reading. Unfortunately, experts say this is the case in our area.

The Nation Center for Education Statistics estimates that 8 percent of people 16 and older in St. Joseph County lack basic literacy skills. Programs in our area are stepping up to do something about this and they seem to be working.

It starts early. Reading, math, overall literacy.

"It helps connect them," says Gladys Muhammad, director of the Charles Martin Youth Center.

Which Muhammad says opens so many doors, and prevent kids from being locked behind bars.

"If the situation arises where they are not able to get an education they will resort to other things and they call it a pipeline to the system," said instructor Huddah Faham.

Directors at the Charles Martin Youth Center started the Augustus F. Hawkins Literacy Program because of the alarming correlation between illiteracy and incarceration.

"We have actually increased those levels of those children reading by using computers, by using literature that shows themselves in the literature, and it actually has happened," says Muhammad.

It's free after school tutoring. Students at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, and Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer to teach the kids these vital skills.

"Focusing on literacy will help decrease the amount of people in the criminal justice center," and give kids the opportunity for success,"reading is essential for life. I mean it's just a tool. If you can't read, how far can you go?"

The program is held two days a week. All you need to do is register your child. If you want to help, you can donate money and books to the Charles Martin Youth Center.

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