A Letter from the CEO: We did it!

By Lisa Hembry, CEO of Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT)

We are excited to announce that the partnership between Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) is a semi-finalist in the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation competition. Our team, PeopleForWords, includes collaborators from LIFT, SMU Guildhall, and SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development. This is a global competition where teams develop mobile applications compatible on smart phone devices that have the potential to increase literacy skills among adult learners. The solutions discovered through the applications will help reveal and overcome roadblocks in improving adult literacy through providing access, retention, and a scalable product to the public.

In North Texas, where 1 in 5 adults cannot read, this is more than a competition. This is a dedicated effort by our team to tackle the growing issue of low-literacy and poverty. Each organization involved in the collaboration brings their expertise to the competition: adult literacy training, knowledge in education, and game development. Together these skills have enabled our team to build a functional and fun application that helps improve adult literacy through increasing basic reading and writing skills anytime, anywhere. PeopleForWords allows users to play the role of an archaeologist traveling the world to decode artifacts, creating an engaging, learning experience while working towards the goal of improving reading.

Our team is the only remaining team in Texas, and one of eight semi-finalists selected from a field of 109 registered teams. Year-long testing of the semi-finalist apps involving over 12,000 low-literate adults has begun in 3 U.S. cities, including Dallas.  Up to 5 finalists will be determined in 2018, and each will be awarded $100,000.

Dallas is a city of big ideas, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.  I feel confident that one of the solutions to the problem of low-literacy and poverty in America, which is a serious problem, will come from Dallas.  I would like to recognize and extend a big thank you to Communities Foundation of Dallas, an early investor in our project, for the generous investment of $20,000 in our mobile app.

Our adult learners face numerous challenges learning to read, including time, money, transportation and childcare.  Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis is a tool that adult literacy providers can use with students who don’t have the time, money or transportation to regularly attend literacy classes.

You can read the official press release on the Adult Literacy XPRIZE website here.  You can follow the development of the application, and our team’s progress in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition at http://www.peopleforwords.org and http://www.smu.edu/Simmons/AboutUs/xprize

Thank you for your continued support.