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Matrix Human Services is improving childhood literacy through free head start program

Posted at 4:50 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 18:24:40-05

(WXYZ) — The Scripps Howard Foundation, part of our parent company, is committed to putting books in the hands of children in need across the country. Scripps believes it can help wipe out poverty and create a better informed world.

Latricia Wiliams is a mother of four boys, three of whom are teens. Her 19-year-old is headed to the Marines and she has a little girl on the way.

Most of her time is spent here at Matrix Human Services in Detroit. It's a free federally funded head start program where she's a teacher and the progress she sees in these young kids is amazing.

"You see their reading levels go up," said Cristal Claussen, director of Matrix Human Services. "They're more engaged socially with friends, you even see their communication. Why is literacy so important, especially when you think about a head start program? The biggest impact that literacy has for our children is actually on brain development."

Each of Williams' kids have gone through head start at Matrix.

"I see them engaging in education, wanting to learn and for me it made it easier for a mom, and a working mom, to be able to teach them more because they were already engaged and willing to learn," Williams said.

Her 5-year-old was born with a speech delay, but they never gave up on him and Williams says early head start was a blessing.

"We kept reading and (doing) speech therapy things like that so now he's able to connect things he's reading at a first-grade level and he's only in kindergarten," Williams said.

The illiteracy rate in Detroit is more than 50 percent and a lack of early education is part of the problem.

"Until now, outside of the head start there's really not been any kind of enrichment for children," Claussen said. "So when they come to school, unless their parents know to work with them they haven't had that kind of preparation. So they're really behind."

WIlliams says she's grateful to the Scripps Howard Foundation and Channel 7 for donating thousands of books to Matrix Human Services, so families like hers will have plenty of books on hand to read to their children and to take home.

The Scripps Howard Foundation has given Matrix 16,000 books this year. That means four books for every child.

For more information on Matrix Human Services, click here. You can also reach out by phone at 313-831-100 or 1-844-4HS-INFO.