Everyone needs and deserves a literate life. That is the core belief of The Read Center, a community-based nonprofit organization in Richmond. The Read Center offers a variety of instructive programs, ranging from one-on-one tutoring to group sessions that assist adults in improving their literacy.
We sat down with Nausha Brown-Chavez, advocacy specialist, to touch on her role and The Read Center’s recent focus on voting.
What does your role entail as an advocacy specialist?
In my position, I seek to destigmatize adult literacy. After working in this industry for 12 years, taking on this role means being a stronger advocate for our students. I focus on expanding the knowledge and understanding of adult literacy and challenging the status quo. For example, there are so many people who are out of work or underemployed due to their struggles with literacy. I help reach those individuals by increasing awareness about The Read Center, so that everyone has the opportunity to get the help they need.
Why has The Read Center prioritized its literacy and voting initiative?
When you are a person who is literate, there are so many things you take for granted. How documents are structured and the complexity of language used are factors that many people don’t realize can be a hindrance for those with low literacy. In the context of voting, the polling environment creates an expectation that not everyone can meet. A lot of people won’t vote because of the shame they may feel around lacking the basic skills needed to complete what some may think is a simple task.
At The Read Center, we believe everyone should be able to exercise their right to vote. We estimate that there are over 81,000 people in the Richmond Metro Area that lack reading skills. That’s a significant number of people who may be deterred from voting. Our goal is to increase awareness around the assistive services that are offered, and let people know they are not alone.
What is the biggest challenge and reward of working at The Read Center
The biggest challenge is helping the people we serve change their mindset. Many students come in with a wall of barriers. “No one can help me,” “I can’t,” “I don’t have time.” We help students eliminate this negative headspace.
It can be very emotional hearing students share their hardships, but being able to help them think differently and create change is so powerful. A person making the call to say they need help, that’s a reward for me because that is one more person we can help. It is all interrelated, whatever positive life changes an adult accomplishes because they came to The Read Center, that is a reward.