The ability to read and write is a basic need for individuals today, yet thousands in the Lansing area are illiterate. The Capital Area Literacy Coalition (CALC) opened in 1985 to help adults and children learn to read, write and speak English. This past year, CALC helped 1,093 adults and children in more than 75 locations. According to U.S. Census statistics from 2006, nearly 10,000 adults in Lansing over the age of 25 are high school dropouts. In Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties, more than 80,000 adults are functionally illiterate. CALC offers several free programs to aid individuals at any level. Executive director Dr. Lois Bader is an internationally known authority on literacy and a former professor at Michigan State University. “What people need to know, really, is that this is extremely serious. Not just for the individual — of course, it’s life and death for the individual and his or her family — but for the economic well-being of the Lansing area. We need more higher literate people to take some of the jobs that are now not being filled,” Bader said. Sometimes Bader hears people saying that illiterate adults had their chance to learn in school, but she strongly disagrees. “Last week we had a young man come in who was put in foster care when he was three… By the time he dropped out of one of Lansing’s high schools, he had been in 10 foster homes. You cannot say that person had a chance … So, we’re looking at people growing up in poverty without people to read to them, talk to them, inspire them to work harder, give them help in school and so forth,” she said. Children’s programs include tutoring students, instructing and mentoring at-risk students in public housing and family programs that encourage parent involvement. Approximately 90 percent of children CALC tutored were on or above grade level by the end of the school year. CALC volunteers also take teenagers to visit colleges and give them advice for the ACT. Bader said it is no longer enough for individuals to have a high school education; they must go further in order to find a job. “With our teens, we were happy in the beginning that we kept them from dropping out of school. Now we don’t feel successful unless our teens go on to college or get some special training. Everyone absolutely has to do that,” she said. The nonprofit also accepts book donations and received 35,000 last year. Bader said this makes a major impact in allowing students to practice at home. CALC also offers vision screening, workplace literacy and diagnostic programs. All of their work is based on the newest research. Bader says the nonprofit just needs more people who are willing to learn and help. “What distresses me so much is that we know how to correct this, we know how to do it, and we just need more participation and volunteers to do it,” she said. Anyone is welcome to volunteer their time and tutor. For more information or to volunteer contact CALC at (517) 485-4949, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.thereadingpeople.org, or stop in at 1028 E. Saginaw, Lansing.