The Exodus Foundation has helped more than 1500 children from across Sydney go from never opening a book to reading Harry Potter in six months.
But now the program is on its last legs.
On September 30, the State Government stopped funding the foundation’s literacy program, forcing schools to set aside money in their own budgets to enroll students.
Exodus Founder the Reverend Bill Crews said the Foundation can no longer cover the program’s cost.
“We are inundated with calls from schools wanting to get their students involved, but without the funding from the government to cover the shortfall it just can’t go on,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to the Education Department and they’ve said if the schools want to send their students, they have to pay. Schools are flat out spending whatever little money they can get.”
Mr Crews said the program did more than teach children a love of reading.
“We’ve found that four years after being in the program, 90 percent of those children are still in school,” he said.
“It has cost us $20 million in the 20 years we’ve run this program”.
“We estimate we’ve saved the government more than $500 million in that time because we’ve taken children who would not have been able to contribute to society and have gone on to post-graduate degrees.”
Rev Crews said the MultiLIT program was created by Macquarie University and available to children starting high school.
“We work out the reading level they’re at and devise a plan teaching them to read,” he said.
“In some cases we literally have to explain to the kids that it’s the black stuff you read, and six months later they’re reading Harry Potter books.”
A spokesman from the Department of Education said the foundation had received $4 million for targeted program funds since 2010.
The spokesman also said NSW public schools has received $251 million to assist with additional education needs under the Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan.
“In 2012, the Local schools Local Decisions reform gave principals and their school communities a greater say over how they allocate resources to best meet the needs of their students,” the spokesman said.