Monday, September 07, 2009

West Alabama Focuses on Adult Literacy

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Literacy Council and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama will conduct a two-day event to raise awareness about adult education as part of International Literacy Day on Sept. 8.

The event will begin with a strategic-thinking forum for literacy service providers, educational agencies and employers from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn. The forum will teach them how to infuse literacy into their planning and programs. The forum will also tell participants how to effectively recruit people who want to help in literacy programs.

There will be a literacy grant workshop to assist in identifying and securing grant money for literacy programs from 9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 9.

An International Literacy Day lunch and awards program will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at a cost of $20 per person. Awards will be given to students, tutors, organizations and leaders. More than 40 different organizations are expected to be there.

Organizers, however, say the two-day event isn’t aimed only at those who work with literacy issues.

Johnnie Aycock, president of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, said the issue should concern the whole community. Aycock said literacy is a key element in work productivity, because it minimizes social problems and it reduces the number of school dropouts.

This year, the event will feature Margaret Doughty, president and chief executive officer of Literacy Powerline. Doughty is considered one of the nation’s foremost authorities on literacy.

Doughty said that literacy, which is directly related to economic development, requires community involvement.

“There are two main reasons for the community to participate on these events: First, literacy is the one constant in which research can prove that can reduce poverty. And second, the only way to achieve economic prosperity is by having a skilled work force and literacy is the foundation for this,” she said.

Doughty said members of the community should ask themselves what can be done to increase literacy rates.

“If they can understand why is this so important, we can share the answers with them and explain what actions are necessary to increase literacy in the community,” Doughty said.

September has been designated International Literacy Month. Koichiro Matsuura, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that literacy has been proved time and time again to be a vital tool of empowerment.

“It is time for the right to education of all persons, of whatever age, to be realized in practice,” Matsuura said.

Worldwide, 776 million adults are illiterate and 75 million children do not go to school, according to UNESCO.

In Alabama, 951,328 people 16 or older are not enrolled in school or have not earned a high school diploma or an equivalent, according to the 2000 Census.

One out of every four people function at the lowest literacy level in Alabama and 75 percent of small-business owners report that many applicants for job openings do not have basic reading skills, according to the Literacy Council of West Alabama.

Like West Alabama, many communities across the United States are working to improve literacy. September is literacy month and it's the perfect time to get involved in support of the cause. There are many programs that work with adults and children across the nation. Volunteering, even an hour a week, can make quite an impact in the community.

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