Imagine not being able to read signs on the road, directions on a bottle of medicine or the ingredients on a package of food. For many Clevelanders, illiteracy is a frustrating reality—one that Seeds of Literacy helps adult residents overcome by giving them access to the resources they need to succeed.
“Our students have such great courage,” says Bonnie Entler, executive director at Seeds of Literacy. “To walk in our doors in their 30s and 40s and say, ‘I need help’ because you don’t know multiplication tables or how to turn on computers. If they can do that, we can be here to help them.”
Entler says 66 percent of Cleveland residents are functionally illiterate, defined as having math, reading or language skills below a fourth-grade level, and some neighborhoods have an illiteracy rate as high as 95 percent. So while Seeds of Literacy helps about 1,000 adult learners a year, “we’re only seeing a small percentage of those who need our services,” Entler says.
But she hopes to see that number increase as people become more aware that help is available. Anyone 18 or older who wants the services offered by Seeds of Literacy is welcome to them, free of charge. And the non-profit works to make its services as accessible as possible.
“One of the reasons our program works so well for so many students is we operate on fairly long days,” Entler says. “We’re open 12 hours a day, Monday through Thursday, so students can come whenever they want.”
And those students are succeeding; of those who receive tutoring, there have been 660 grade level increases, 244 GED sections passed and 57 GED grads.
Seeds of hope
With just 15 people on staff, Seeds of Literacy relies on donations and volunteers to achieve its mission. It also relies on corporate assistance from organizations such as Huntington, which supports the organization’s direct programming efforts to increase literacy that will help lead to financial stability.
“That support is vital,” Entler says. “We’re one of the few non-profits that has no guaranteed funding annually. We have to raise all of our money every single year. But we’ve grown a lot because the need out there is huge.”
About the organization
Name: Seeds of Literacy
Phone: (216) 661-7950
Mission: To provide personalized education that empowers adults to succeed in their communities
How you can help
Go to seedsofliteracy.org and click on the "Get Involved" tab at the top to learn how to volunteer for, donate to, or tell others about the organization.