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Literacy Council of Kingsport works to address adult literacy crisis

Dawn Blake, community contributor • Sep 23, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Today begins the annual Adult Education and Family Literacy Week to remind us all that basic reading, writing, math and technology skills remain an elusive target for 36 million adults nationwide, including more than 12 percent of adults in our community.

Often these adults are our coworkers, relatives, friends and neighbors who have managed to mask the inability to read for years. Literacy Council of Kingsport is part of a national network of organizations that work every minute of every day to end the adult literacy crisis.

According to ProLiteracy, the leading membership organization advancing the cause of adult literacy and basic education in the nation, more than 36 million adults in the United States lack the most basic literacy skills, and 15 percent of Americans without a diploma don’t have jobs. ProLiteracy provides more than 1,100 community-based literacy organizations, including Literacy Council of Kingsport, with tools to help educate adult learners and help them meet the demands of today’s workforce.

Literacy helps families be healthier and safer and provides people sustainable opportunities to support themselves through work, contributing ultimately to the economic growth of our region and our country.

“About one in six adults is still not literate and approximately 67.4 million school-aged children are not enrolled in school,” said Dawn Blake, executive director of Literacy Council of Kingsport. “Here, in Sullivan County,12.5 percent of adults, ages 18-24, and 14.2 percent of adults, ages 25 and older, have less than a high school education. Research shows that the difference between those with and those without a high school diploma is about $10,000 annually.”

Did you know the single greatest indicator of a child’s future success is the literacy level of the parents? In Kingsport City and Sullivan County schools, approximately 50 percent of children were not on grade reading level by the end of third grade. Ultimately, the inability to read by the third grade can impact whether a child graduates from high school.

Fathers, mothers and even grandparents are the faces of those turning to the Literacy Council.

“Low literacy costs the nation more than $200 billion dollars each year in lost productivity, as well as an additional $1 (billion) to $2 billion in health and safety issues,” said Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “Every dollar spent on adult literacy and education provides returns to the country through higher employment, added tax revenues, reduced welfare payments, and less crime.”

Making an impact

Over the past 30 years, the Literacy Council of Kingsport has evolved to be the only literacy organization in the region to provide free one-on-one tutoring in three program areas: Adult Basic Literacy, English as a Second Language and Tutoring for Children and Youth. In 2018, the Literacy Council provided 125 trained volunteers to serve 135 adults and 300 children in Sullivan, Hawkins and Washington counties in Northeast Tennessee and Scott County in Southwest Virginia.

“In 2018, our volunteer adult tutors provided 8,529 tutoring hours to help our adult students improve their literacy skills in order to become more self-sufficient, have greater opportunities for job advancement, enter into post-secondary education programs, increase involvement in their children’s education, have higher civic participation, and improve their overall quality of life,” said Blake. “Our volunteer children tutors provided 1,296 tutoring hours to help identified children improve basic word recognition, fluency and comprehension skills.”

In recognition of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, join us by creating a Literacy Legacy! Literacy lasts a lifetime and will be passed on from generation to generation. Give the gift of reading by serving as a volunteer tutor or by joining us as we fight to create a better life for all by making a donation to the United Way of Greater Kingsport campaign. Together, we “Live United.”

The Literacy Council is a United Way of Greater Kingsport member agency. To learn more, call (423) 392-4643 or visit literacycouncilofkingsport.org.

Community contributor Dawn Blake is the executive director of Literacy Council of Kingsport.

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