The Newberry County Literacy Council is pleased to announce that September is National Literacy Month. If you have read our previous columns about the Council you know that the concept of literacy is much broader than reading but proficiency in reading is certainly a cornerstone of literacy.
The National Center for Education Statistics gathers data about literacy levels of adults in our country.
They use the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) which classifies adults into four levels: Below Basic (no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills); Basic (can perform simple and everyday literacy activities); Intermediate (can perform moderately challenging literacy activities); and Proficient (can perform complex and challenging literacy activities).
The results of the assessment are as follows: 14 percent of adults in the United States are at the Below Basic level; 29 percent are at the Basic Level; 44percent are at the Intermediate level; and 13 percent are at the Proficient level. In terms of numbers, this means that ninety-three million Americans are at the Below Basic and Basic levels and only twenty-eight million at the Proficient level.
This has repercussions for parenting, job acquisition, and citizenship skills. For South Carolina, the estimate is that 15 percent of adults fall into the Below Basic level. For Newberry County 19 percent are at the Below Basic level. So, there is work to be done.
National Literacy Month is also when we begin our fall programs. The People’s College will resume on Sept. 12 at 5:30. We will be reading and discussing historical writings about the creation and condition of our democracy and relating them to the current presidential campaign.
Among the readings will be the Declaration of Independence, some of the Federalist Papers, Washington’s Farewell Address, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We will also read a short biography of Lincoln. There are no fees and the books are free. People with no college experience, people with some college, college graduates — all are welcome. Call the Literacy Council to sign up. We would like to grow this program.
The Weekly Readers Book Club will be starting a new book on Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. at the Literacy office on Caldwell. We have selected “The Water is Wide” by Pat Conroy. It’s a compelling story of his year teaching children on Daufuskie Island. Readers of all levels are welcome and the books are free.
The Brown Bad Dialogues are beginning Sept. 14 at noon at 1208 Main St., next to the Grille. These are a series of meetings to discuss issues of common concern in our community and ways of collaborating to address them. Participants bring their lunch, we look at data about income, poverty, health, and education and share our thoughts as we break bread. If you are interested, please contact us. Space is limited.
A signature program of the Literacy Council will reopen on Sept. 20. This is the FAST Program we have written about before. School children and their parents gather Tuesday evenings at Newberry Elementary School for lessons and skill instruction that improves their opportunity for success in school. Contact the Council for more information.
Finally, in conjunction with National Literacy Month, Barbara Chapman, the executive director of the Literacy Council, is starting a program called 30-30. She wants to recruit 30 tutors in 30 days to teach 30 adult or child learners. She has already enlisted some Newberry College students but will need others. So consider spending an hour a week to help an adult or child become a better reader.
You will be helping our entire community. As we move into National Literacy Month, let’s celebrate the importance and joy of literacy by reading, by reading to others, and by nurturing the ability of others to read.
Until next month, happy reading.
Joseph McDonald is a retired sociology professor from Newberry College and has worked with the Newberry County Literacy Council for more than 20 years as a tutor and board member. The Literacy Council is located at 1121 Caldwell St. Visit newberryread.com, call 803-276-8086 or send an email to [email protected] for more information.