Look, I know the last thing you want to read about is another societal issue. The year 2020 has been relentless in showing us over and over the major issues our society has. However, I am writing this because Sept. 8 was International Literacy Day, and I think you are going to want to know more about it. So let’s dive in, shall we? We’re going to look at the issue, how it affects people, how it affects our community, and what we can do to help.

There are people in your life that read at a third grade level. You know them, you see them, and you probably have no idea that they struggle to read. You know people that have not finished high school. You know them, you see them, you probably have no idea they didn’t finish high school. You know people that don’t know how to use a computer. You watch as they see a world passing by and they can’t connect with people in the same way. What you probably see is a “failure to launch.” You may see anger. You may see a lack of confidence. You may see someone that won’t go to parent-teacher conferences. You may see someone who doesn’t read anything longer than a Facebook post. You may be someone who is very successful but for some reason won’t branch into using new tools or procedures to enhance their business. Sometimes it’s laughed off. Sometimes it’s brushed aside. But low reading, writing, and math skills hold people back. And like it or not when some of our community is held back, everyone is held back. If one person isn’t flourishing, all of Franklin misses out.

How does this affect an individual? Think about it like this: How did you learn about the world? How did you learn about job opportunities, life outside of Kentucky, a healthy lifestyle, child rearing, relationships, your religion? You probably read about it at some point. Reading is how we acquire most of our language. Most adults know around 50,000 words. Yet in speaking we only use between 5,000-10,000 words (Judy K. Montgomery, The Bridge of Vocabulary: Evidence Based Activities for Academic Success. NCS Pearson Inc, 2007). That means that you have about 40,000 words you know but don’t use when speaking. Now, imagine someone trying to navigate life in 2020 without those 40,000 words about ideas, feelings, relationships, skills, etc. This is what almost 30% of our population is dealing with.

So how does this play out in our communities? It’s 2020, and we are all mad about stuff. Think of all the things that frustrate you about our current society: economics, drug abuse, incarceration, child abuse/neglect, police brutality, racial injustice, political strife? Now think about that issue in light of knowing that almost 30% of the adults that surround you struggle to meet the needs of their everyday life because they don’t have the tools to navigate a world of forms, computers, articles, and novels. This is where Adult Education is needed.

Let’s look at some facts. From Proliteracy.com:

• Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves.

• Of adults with the lowest literacy levels, 43% live in poverty,

• An excess of $230 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy

• Low literacy costs the U.S. at least $225 billion each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

Let’s bring it home a bit. From PIAAC Skills Assessment:

• 23% of Simpson County reads at the lowest levels of literacy.

• 20% of Warren County reads at the lowest levels of literacy.

• 26% of Allen County reads at the lowest levels of literacy.

• 24% of Logan County reads at the lowest levels of literacy.

So how can we change this? The work is already being done in adult literacy centers around the region. You can financially partner with us here at Simpson County Literacy Center. We offer free, in-person classes at our office for finishing High School Diplomas, Reading, Math, Digital Literacy, and English as a Second Language. We help with job searches and resume building. We can help with college prep. We help with pretty much any learning goal an adult has to help improve their life.

We also offer classes on English as a Second Language, Digital Literacy, Workplace Soft Skills, Interpersonal Communication, Graphic Literacy, and more for your company. We can come to a workplace (following safe at work guidelines) and teach, or we can create an online course for employees. Our approach is tailored for everyone, including the people that may fall through the cracks of other courses because of their literacy level.

Helping adults learn and grow to lead more flourishing, dignified lives is our mission.

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