According to a U.S. Department of Education study, 32 million adults in our country cannot read, a troubling statistic. But September is National Literacy Month, a time for stressing the importance of reading for people of all ages. Many programs are available to assist those who wish to learn.
A little history
In colonial times, parents were largely responsible for teaching children to read. However, in the mid-1600s, the laws in both Massachusetts and Connecticut mandated that everyone learn to read—adults, children, servants and apprentices. Today, literacy encompasses not only the reading of books but also the ability to navigate our ever-expanding digital landscape.
Studies show that the educational achievement of parents is a great motivator for their children to succeed in school. According to studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, how well children can read by the time they enter the third grade indicates how high their chances are of graduating from high school, and, beyond that, of succeeding in the workplace.
Family literacy programs
Family literacy refers to making reading a family activity. When books are available at home, parents can read to their young children. The children, in turn, will benefit from the parents’ positive attitude toward education and the opportunity for further learning. Various government-sanctioned programs are available for reading instruction. Here in Bradenton, Project Light of Manatee provides beginner to advanced English language proficiency courses for participants 18 years of age and older. The organization is part of the Suncoast Adult Literacy Alliance (SALA), a collaboration of local non-profits that focuses on both adult and family literacy. Included are the Manatee Literacy Council, the Literacy Council of Sarasota and the Literacy Volunteers of South Sarasota County.
Only 53% of immigrants in the U.S. are proficient English speakers. As we have seen, helping adults to read and write benefits their children. In fact, studies show that a mother’s reading skill is the leading determinant of her child’s future academic success. The English language courses offered by Project Light are designed to help adult students navigate daily life more easily and enjoy greater success in their chosen careers. Courses include listening, reading comprehension, writing and speaking.
Project Light also offers courses in basic computer skills. In addition, the organization provides a program that helps immigrants prepare for U.S. Citizenship testing.
Increased literacy leads to higher employment rates. It also helps to reduce dependence on public assistance and to better life in our communities. Our ancestors in America had the right idea in acknowledging the value of reading for both adults and children. It is a concept we carry forward today with help from local non-profits and targeted reminders such as National Literacy Month.
Project Light of Manatee, Inc., Elena Farkas, Executive Director. (941) 745-1659. www.projectlightofmanatee.org
Manatee Literacy Council, Michelle McLean, Executive Director. (941) 746-8197. www.manatee-literacy.org
Literacy Council of Sarasota, Tom Melville, Executive Director. (941) 955-0421. www.sarasotaliteracy.org
Literacy Volunteers of South Sarasota County, Sue Spayd. (941) 861-1352. www.literacychangeslives.org