Read between the ‘lions’

The Oakland Literacy Council is inviting the community to take a walk on the wild side with its first annual charity walk at the Detroit Zoo

By: Elizabeth Scussel | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published August 13, 2014


ROYAL OAK — Get ready to roar for reading.

On Sept. 6, the Oakland Literacy Council will host its inaugural Wild About Reading Charity Walk at the Detroit Zoo. Hours for the event are 7:30-11 a.m., but walk participants are welcome to enjoy the zoo all day, for no additional cost. All proceeds from the walk will go toward the continued efforts of the OLC.

Now in its 30th year, the Bloomfield Hills-based nonprofit offers free one-on-one literacy tutoring and English language instruction for adults. The OLC strives to raise awareness and reduce the negative impact of adult illiteracy.

“A lot of people think there’s no literacy problem in Oakland County. But the illiteracy rate is somewhere between 12 and 15 percent. Last year, we saw a 20 percent increase in new student attendance. We want to build awareness because we do have a problem,” said Julie Hoensheid of the OLC. “There are so many negative connotations and misconceptions about illiteracy. At OLC, we stress that it is not a weakness.”

Shari Barrick of the OLC explained that the percentage equals roughly 150,000-200,000 residents in Oakland County who experience low literacy.

“If you think about it, when parents experience illiteracy, the chances are great that their children will experience it, too. Which means the number is possibly increasing; it’s not dwindling or even stabilizing,” Barrick explained.

Currently, the OLC has 300 tutors paired with 300 students.

“You go into this tutor/student relationship thinking, ‘I’m going to change this person’s life,’” Hoensheid said. “It turns out the life that is changed is yours. To have this kind of success and influence in someone else’s life is truly life-changing.”

Barrick explained that just because someone cannot read doesn’t mean they’re not smart. It’s just a skillset that needs to be developed.

“People come here scared because of their alleged weakness. They’re shy and complacent,” Barrick said. “The beauty comes once they open up and see their potential.”

Hoensheid explained that the connections made at the OLC are powerful.

“These tutors are a lifeline to the students,” she said. “We love what we do here, and we’re so lucky and fortunate to be a part of this organization. We’re touching people’s lives, and we’re opening the world through words.”

The registration fee for the Wild About Reading Charity Walk is $25 for adults, $15 for children ages 5-14 years old and free for children younger than  5. Registration may be done in advance or in person the day of the event. Registration fees include free parking, refreshments and admission to the zoo. To register for Wild About Reading, visit, send an email to or call (248) 253-1617.