books!In 2007, 165 participants from all sectors of our community met for three days at a Tucson Regional Town Hall to discuss the critical issues facing our region. This group identified increasing literacy levels as the single best way to ensure a prosperous economy and an improved quality of life for everyone in Tucson.

A coalition of government, nonprofit, business, media, funding and educational organizations came together after the Town Hall to continue the discussion. In July 2011, their discussions took fruit as five longstanding organizations merged to become Literacy Connects. With nearly 100 years of experience providing quality literacy services to children and adults in Pima County and Southern Arizona, Literacy Connects became the largest nonprofit literacy provider in Arizona.

Since then, the organization has built a solid infrastructure and widespread support from political leaders, the public, community partners and private donors. In 2013, Literacy Connects was highlighted in Mayor Johnathan Rothschild’s State of the City address, and the Arizona Daily Star featured our children’s programming in a series of articles proposing solutions to Tucson’s poverty crisis. In 2013-2014, Literacy Connects partnered with 77 schools and dozens of community organizations including the Pima County Public Library, Pima Community College, Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson and the YWCA. In addition, Literacy Connects is a beneficiary of the Tucson Festival of Books, the fourth-largest event of its kind in the United States.

In a city identified as the sixth-poorest metropolitan area in the U.S., Literacy Connects aims to address Tucson’s high levels of poverty at its roots – by providing innovative assets-based programming that motivates learners to make sustainable changes in their lives, and an intentional systems-based process of aligning existing community partners around common goals. The result is a growing culture of literacy in Southern Arizona and a shared understanding of literacy’s importance to the life, health and future of all of its citizens.

In February 2014, Literacy Connects fulfilled a key merger goal by purchasing a new home large enough to hold all of our programs and to become a central hub for community literacy efforts. Located in one of Tucson’s highest-need areas, the 14,921-square-foot facility at 200 E. Yavapai Road is a former church school. Program offices, administration, classrooms and leveled lending library currently occupy about 8,000 square feet, with the rest of the campus to be renovated as funding permits.

Literacy Connects’ groundbreaking Infusion Project is an example of a replicable, systems-based approach to providing research- and evidence-based literacy programs in an entirely new way. The first to integrate all of Literacy Connects’ programs, the project is a continuum of services for children, adults and families built both within a school and throughout its surrounding community.