Can you imagine not being able to read? To pick up the newspaper and not understand the words? To have your child ask them to read you a bedtime story and not be able to? To pick up a menu at a restaurant and not know what it says? These examples are how thousands of adults live each and every day. That’s why the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council is dedicated to providing free reading, writing, math and speaking skills for adults and out-of-school youth. We spoke to Lisa Vernon, Executive Director of Anne Arundel County Literacy Council, for this week’s Friday Focus. She shared how they have impacted hundreds of lives through their commitment and passion to help improve the reading level of individuals in the community.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)
A: You may be surprised to learn that there are an estimated 70,000 adults in Anne Arundel County who do not have the basic literacy skills needed to obtain a GED. When these same adults increase their reading, writing and basic math skills, even before passing the GED, they are more likely to lift themselves out of poverty, contribute to improved health care costs and find/keep employment. Undoubtedly, this has a positive effect on families, on Anne Arundel County and on society as a whole.
The Anne Arundel County Literacy Council (AACLC) addresses this need by providing free, individualized reading, writing, math and speaking English instruction for adults and out-of-school youth in Anne Arundel County who have low level literacy skills. There is no charge to the student for the books, tutoring or assessments they receive. They can meet in any public location in the county, which includes all 15 county libraries and over 17 community agencies.
- Having to pretend you can read and living in fear that you may be found out.
- Not being able to read the warning labels on your children’s prescriptions.
- Not being able to find work because you can’t read the classifieds or complete a job application.
- Not being able to read written instructions, the newspaper, road signs, etc.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: Howard is one of 218 adults and out-of-school youth who received free reading and writing instruction from the Literacy Council last year. Due to severe dyslexia, Howard could read two words when he came to us for help – Orioles and Ravens, his two favorite sports teams. “I got tired of having to have someone go with me to doctors’ offices to help me fill out the paperwork. I wasn’t able to read a menu so I stayed away from restaurants because I was embarrassed. I was never able to vote,” Howard said.
After years of trying to cover up his low reading skills, he determined that he would learn to read. He searched for someone to teach him but found that there were no state-sponsored reading programs. Fortunately, he discovered the county’s Literacy Council program. He was matched with volunteer literacy tutors who have faithfully met with him twice weekly for the past three years. The result? Howard is now at a 4th grade reading level, he registered to vote and voted for the first time, he reads the newspaper every morning and he can now read road signs, menus, written instructions, etc.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Our biggest challenge is securing revenue so that we can continue expanding our free literacy program in Anne Arundel County.
Q: Are there any upcoming events?
A: Our next two-day tutor training will be held on April 9 and 16 at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, Maryland. If interested in attending this training, please email Anita Ewing, Tutor Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 410-269-4419 and leave a message.
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
A: We are always looking for volunteers who can help us with fundraising, marketing, grant writing and event planning needs. If interested, please call the office at 410-269-4419, leave a detailed message and we will return your call.