5K in Ypsi to raise awareness and money for children's literacy

A 5K run/walk in Ypsilanti next month will seek to highlight America's ongoing literacy crisis and the many local and national organizations dedicated to literacy education. The Elijah and Chase 5K Run/Walk for Literacy Awareness will come to Parkridge Park on Oct. 21 through a direct partnership with the Washtenaw Literacy Coalition, whose trained tutors provide free literacy support for Washtenaw County residents ages 16 and older.

Eric Brown founded the 5K in Detroit in 2019, and it has since spread to cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Flint. Brown says that since the event's founding, America's literacy crisis has actually worsened. USA Today reported last year that 130 million American adults read below a sixth-grade level.

"People have to come to the realization that the lack of being literate has a negative impact on many things in life," Brown says. "The percentage of those with no more than a 3rd to 4th grade reading level is the recipe to keep the school-to-prison pipeline alive and well."

This will be the 5K’s second time in Ypsilanti, and Brown says the primary reason for bringing the event to Ypsi is to highlight literacy proficiency rates in Ypsilanti Community Schools. According to data collected by the U.S. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2019, nearly 90% of YCS elementary students "fail to achieve grade level reading standards," and more than 80% of Ypsilanti high school students fail to achieve reading proficiency.

"Getting people to understand just how severe of a crisis it is has been a daunting task," he says. "We want to show Ypsilanti residents that there is a caring faction available trying to be the solution to a very solvable problem."

Brown says the event is also important for raising awareness of local literacy advocacy programs and organizations. Proceeds from the event will benefit Books for Kids, which provides free books to local organizations and families, and Our Community Reads, which focuses on spreading children's books that show accurate, positive representations of the Black community.

"This literacy endeavor is a passion of mine and research has shown that it has been a civil rights issue that is solvable and fixable," Brown says. "It's easy to just sit back and talk about it, but it is so important for people to want to be part of the solution." 

Those interested in participating, volunteering, or donating can contact Brown at 5k4literacy@gmail.com, or visit the event's website and Facebook pages.

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

Photo courtesy of Elijah and Chase 5K Run/Walk.
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