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Tackling Illiteracy

Houston Chronicle
April 24, 2014

OP/ED

Philanthropy is changing. Realizing that charities have to work harder and do more, foundations and those who support them are becoming smarter and more strategic with their goals in hopes of achieving greater community impact. The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is no exception.

Led by co-chairs Neil and Maria Bush and Julie Baker Finck, president, the Houston foundation embarked on a self-reflective path a year or so ago. With more than 1,000 hours donated by Deloitte Consulting LLP, the foundation has developed a blueprint to tackle one of Houston’s most intractable problems: illiteracy.

The cost of illiteracy to our city and nation as a whole is staggering. Consider the national crime rates correlated with low literacy skills: 85 percent of juveniles who interact with the court system are functionally illiterate and more than 70 percent of inmates cannot read above a fourth-grade level. As it costs $21,390 per year to house an inmate in prison, it makes sense that an early investment in literacy could save dollars as well as lives.

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