Literacy Now, 2021 Laura Joyner Award winner

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Literacy Now of Houston is the recipient of the 2021 Laura Joyner Award for outstanding work in supporting human intelligence in the area of literacy development. Executive Director Jacque Daughtry will receive the honor on behalf of the 15-year-old nonprofit organization at the 2021 World Mensa Gathering in Houston.

Literacy, a marker of general human intelligence, impacts our species in diverse ways: It’s foundational for early learning experiences and protective of cognitive functioning later in life, ameliorates systemic inequities, promotes cultural and economic development — and who doesn’t love a good story?

Indeed, some of our uniquely human intelligence is grounded in our species’ capacity for comprehending, responding to, and constructing narratives. Literacy serves us in all areas of our lives, and those with low literacy skills face a cascade of obstacles across their lifespan.

“Forty-one percent of our students are coming to kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read,” Daughtry reports. “There are studies upon studies that show that if your child is not a proficient reader by the end of third grade, they are four times more likely to not graduate from high school.”

Daughtry also highlights the correlation between illiteracy and incarceration, with 85 percent of youth in Houston’s juvenile justice programs being functionally illiterate and 70 percent of Texas’ adult prison population reading at a fourth-grade level.

Founded to address the significant disadvantages children from low-income families face, Literacy Now bridges an impasse between public school services and traditionally underserved families through programming that includes small-group reading interventions, afterschool skills-building opportunities, family literacy outreach events, reading readiness classes for parents and toddlers, and more. The organization’s partnerships and programs instill an appreciation of reading as a lifelong habit, beginning as early as infancy and continuing through high school, for more than 2,000 Houston-area children annually.

“I truly appreciate the opportunity to shine a light on the monumental challenges faced by those struggling with illiteracy and the critical role early intervention plays in eradicating illiteracy and a lifetime of negative outcomes,” Daughtry said.

The Mensa Foundation’s Laura Joyner Award recognizes outstanding work, theoretical or applied, in education, literacy, or work with the gifted, or identifying threats to or preventing the loss of intelligence.