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  • Thrive Detroit

Literacy and Technology

In this day and age it is almost assumed that everyone can read and write at a certain level. The truth of the matter is that a substantial portion of the adult population in Detroit is functionally illiterate. With statistics like these it is very likely that you or someone you know has a friend or associate who struggles with reading and writing. Functional illiteracy refers to the inability to perform everyday tasks related to reading or writing such as filling out forms and applications and reading labels.

One might think that in today’s world of touch screens and voice commands that someone can more or less get by without learning to read, and this is probably true to an extent. But the fact remains that even on our high tech toys and gadgets most of the information is still conveyed via good old fashioned text. This means that not knowing how to read can be more alienating now than ever. Fortunately the very same gadgets that can at times be so confusing can also make learning to read easier and more accessible than ever before.

First off there are a plethora of online resources for those looking for support in dealing with illiteracy.  A quick Google search for “phonics” or “reading help” will turn up dozens of sites aimed at those looking to learn to read or to improve their reading and writing skills. One of the standouts among these sites is This site is very thorough in its explanation of reading concepts and has great interactivity using pictures, sounds, and narrated passages that all intuitively respond to the user’s clicks.

Even with these resources learning to read can be a challenging endeavor without the help of a trained professional. One of the best and easiest ways to find that help is via the Literacy Information and Communication Service (LINCS). This valuable and easy to use tool is hosted at . It only requires you to check your age and type of assistance you require as well as your city, state, or zip code and it will return a list of centers in your area that can provide professional assistance with reading, writing, math and G.E.D. training. Youtube can also be a good place to go for instruction. Yes as it turns out it is good for something besides watching kittens and Beyonce videos (who knew). The “wecanallread” and “hookedonphonicstv” Youtube channels both have many great instructional videos that cover everything from basic letters and sounds to grammar and comprehension.

Just the act of using a computer or a touchscreen device can also be a great way to learn because it often involves associating words and text with pictures. There are many apps on the Android Market and IOS app store that use the functionality of smartphones and tablets for reading instruction. They can be a valuable tool for the reader as well as someone who may be trying to teach someone to read but may not have a teaching background.

If you find yourself in the position of trying to help someone but not knowing where to start, apps like Kids ABC Phonics and Phonics Easy Reader are a great first step. Beyond these there are literally hundreds of apps on both markets, some better than others, so be sure to check the reviews before you choose which one to download.

Learning to read or teaching someone who is functionally illiterate is a challenge. Lucky for us this is just one more area where technology can make our lives that much easier. If you or someone you know would like to use the information in this article to help someone, get involved by going to or LINCS ( and selecting volunteers from the drop down menu to find reading centers in your area that need your help.

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