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Understanding Illiteracy Through Photographs

REACH Literacy

Reading advocates in Sioux Falls say 15,000 people in the city don't have basic reading skills. Now Reach Literacy is releasing a new book that tells the story of adults who are able to read for the first time.

A new photo series called Journey to Literacy presents the stories of 20 adults learning to read. Paige Carda is executive director of Reach Literacy. She says she started the project more than a year ago.

“I sat across the desk and I would interview these people and talk to them every day and they just all had these incredible, amazing stories of kind of survival, and perseverance even in the face of not being able to read and I just thought these are stories that people should hear,” Carda says.

With photographer Chad Philips, Carda set out to show people what illiteracy looks like.

“When people think about illiteracy they don’t really have a defining figure or thing that they think about or look at and we really wanted to humanize that and make it about people, just like you and me, these are people in your community, it could be your neighbor, and that’s kind of what we’re hope to,” Carda says.

Carda says not being able to read stands in the way of finding a job and discovering opportunities to improve lives. Carda says community members don't realize how many people can't read.

“Last year we served 100 adults, which isn’t even close," Carda says. "If we look at just Sioux Falls kind of proper, not including South Dakota, there is about 15,000 people who are 4th grade readers and below.”

Carda says a book release and art show Thursday night are the first steps to inspiring others to solve illiteracy. The event happens at Icon Lounge in Sioux Falls from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on June 18, 2015.