Our History

20+ Years in The Trenches

          In 1955 Time Magazine published a seminal article “Why Johnny Can’t Read”. Sixty years and billions of dollars later, Johnny still can’t read, nor can his sister. A recent study showed that three out of four students of poverty in the United States are reading below expectation levels. Another study shows that 93 million adults in the U.S. read just at, or below, the basic level needed to contribute successfully to society.

          Former President Obama stated “The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children, and we cannot afford to let it continue.” Before that, President George W. Bush echoed these thoughts saying, “All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered.” The North American Literacy Initiative, or NALI is taking this challenge head on.

          NALI is a community enhancing synergy between Author, Great Leaps CEO and former special education teacher Ken Campbell with former Regional Director of Lincoln Financial and Minister Chris Cahill and their teams. After more than 20 years of operating almost exclusively on word-of-mouth success, Great Leaps alone has now touched over ½ million lives in all 50 states, the provinces of Canada and over 40 countries. But now we must do more and that is where NALI fits in. 0ne report estimates that over 10 million children currently need our help to read to reach their full potential.

The good news: 90+ percent of struggling readers can overcome their difficulties if they receive appropriate treatment at early ages.

          NALI is about rolling up our sleeves and marching right into the communities with the biggest needs and raising up an army of trained volunteers equipped with the tools and support to succeed.  The art and science that has made Great Leaps has proven to be successful from inner city Bronx to Amerindian reservations in the West. We are proving that a little love from community leaders, along with direction from our team “just works!”

          As any parent or teacher knows, literacy is more than just passing tests. Students who build the fundamentals of education through Great Leaps see increases in their grades across the board. In addition, as students catch up in the fundamentals, their behavior and academic motivation grows. Recent studies suggest that students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in prison or on welfare. Nearly 85% of the juveniles in the court system are functionally illiterate; commensurately, more than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate. The good news though is that 95+% of struggling readers today can overcome their difficulties if they receive appropriate treatment at early ages. These high percentages are coming to us from Dr. Ken Pugh, president and Director of Research of Haskins Laboratories (Yale).

          Ken and his team say it like this, “Our past success was born out of necessity and a desire to be the change we knew the world needed. Our present success is founded on positive data, sound research, encouraging implementation fidelity and a relentless passion for bringing children to their potential.

          “We know how to teach reading,” says Mr. Campbell, “we have for centuries. Our children cannot read because, plain and simple, we are not teaching them. Who do I blame? Certainly not the parents, or the children; I blame me. I haven’t worked hard enough or smart enough to save these hundreds of thousands of children.”  Together we can.

          If you are a teacher, administrator, community or religious leader or simply someone who wants to learn more about how you can partner with us to shape your community through literacy, contact us today.