CHAPEL HILL – You might have spotted the scrambled letter signs scattered across Chapel Hill and Carrboro.


It looks like gibberish, but Mary Carey said that’s the point. The organization BootstrapsPAC is behind the posters. Carey said that more than 100 have been placed along the busy intersections in Orange County alone.

“It frustrated adults and kids who are used to being able to read every sign,” Carey said.

Bootstraps is a nonpartisan, volunteer political action committee that seeks to shed light on the childhood illiteracy problem in the Triangle.

“When there are huge populations not learning how to read, it doesn’t just impact that child, it impacts the entire community,” Carey said. “It hurts Chapel Hill and Carrboro that half of our economically disadvantaged kids failed their reading tests.”

Carey said the signs were purposely placed to coincide with election season. She said she wants school board candidates and incumbents to take notice.

“They’re representing all of the kids who can’t read any of the signs or their classroom materials,” Carey said.  “There is a greater understanding and frustration for what these kids are feeling every day.”

Carey explained that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System is one of the top districts in North Carolina, but that a significant portion of students are still struggling.

Bootstraps’ website purports that 51 percent of economically disadvantaged children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools System failed the third grade reading test, according to information gathered from

Carey said she hoped this sign campaign would boost activism in helping to solve childhood illiteracy in our area.

“We want to connect them with organizations that are trying to help these kids and ask those individuals if they can give an hour a week and volunteer in a classroom or tutor with the Orange County Literacy Center or become a mentor,” Carey said.

For more information on area organizations to increase literacy, click here.