Let's make Gary 'a reading community' • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
Lori Johnson Kuykendall

Let’s make Gary ‘a reading community’

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One thing most of us take for granted is our ability to read. Reading opens the door to all opportunities in life and nothing is more important than ensuring that door stays open to all. That’s why our mission at the Gary Literacy Coalition is to support, promote, enhance and coordinate the accessibility of literacy opportunities to make Gary and the surrounding area, “a reading community.”

Communities thrive with citizens who are literate and educated, and for too long, Gary has been faced with low literacy rates and high crime rates. That is why we have spent the past 22 years trying to reverse this trend. The GLC provides services for everyone, from children to adults, to bring up test scores, lower crime rates and fill great jobs.

Recently, the GLC worked with area partners, such as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, who helped provide volunteers to read to students in 52 classrooms in our community. Programs and partnerships like this help the Gary Literacy Coalition become more than just a basic program — we have become a community service.

Additionally, the Reach Out and Read initiative, which helps young children gain access to more books allows us to partner with pediatricians who believe reading is medicine. The program works with 10 local doctors to allow for 0- to 5-year-olds to get a book whenever they come in for a well child checkup. In just the last six months, this program has given out 5,000 books to children 5 years old and younger. The need is great, and we are just getting started.

The success of this program has continued, and children over the age of five are requesting enough books that the GLC expanded the Reach Out and Read program to include children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Each book helps produce and strengthen each child’s education base from birth, focusing on concept books that help children identify colors and numbers. This success is a result of a long-standing partnership with Methodist Northlake and Southlake to give babies born at those hospitals their first books. Establishing this literacy base from birth can impact every aspect of a child’s life. From the start, it is critical to erase all barriers to literacy by offering books that are new and free.

For adults, we also want to increase health literacy throughout our community. When patients do not understand what is going on with their health, it is hard to comprehend what the doctor is telling them to do. That is why the Gary Literacy Coalition has been working to get books focused on health and healthy practices, such as cookbooks, health and yoga books, in the hands of those who need them the most.

In the past few years, the GLC has continued to grow, supporting communities across Lake and Porter counties, with events in Gary, Merrillville, East Chicago and Hammond. We understand our impact when we hear stories from parents who have received books during their childhood, and now their children are receiving books from the program too. But regardless of our success, the need is still there, and our work doesn’t stop.

Literacy is for everyone, and thanks to over 15 years of continuing help from partners like Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, it is more prevalent in our communities today than ever.

The Gary Literacy Coalition Inc. supports, promotes, enhances and coordinates the accessibility of literacy opportunities, with the goal of making Gary “A Reading City.”


  • Lori Johnson Kuykendall

    Lori Johnson Kuykendall, of Gary, is the executive director of the Gary Literacy Coalition. She earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Indiana State University and a master's certificate in public management from Indiana University Northwest. She previously was the director of girl services with the former Drifting Dunes Girl Scout Council now (The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana), and the program director for the YWCA of Northwest Indiana.

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