Volunteers needed to boost literacy

Published 6:55 am Tuesday, February 6, 2007

By Staff
If you’re reading this, you probably take it for granted.
Reading is a skill many of us take for granted, but we shouldn’t.
A total of 27 percent of Beaufort County residents are non-readers and 34 percent read below an eighth-grade level, according to the 1998 state statistics.
They aren’t statistics. They are human beings. They work with you, go to church with you, yet sometimes they are invisible, because they don’t want people to know.
Let’s not focus on why a person can’t read. The causes can be varied. Perhaps they didn’t get enough attention as a student, or reading wasn’t something that was stressed at home growing up. No matter the reason, there are thousands of people in this region who can’t read at all, or barely function in the written world. Statistics show they are more likely to be unemployed. If they do work, chances are their salaries will be lower as will their chance for advancement.
And it’s not all about economics. Picture a man or a woman who lacks the skills to read a basic book to his or her grandchild. Can you imagine what that would be like?
It must take tremendous guts for someone to step up and say the simple words “I need help.” We applaud those who do, and hope that others will step up to the plate. Nobody who is brave enough to admit they have a problem should continue to suffer because of a lack of volunteers.
It doesn’t take a federal mandate or some massive state program. All it takes is for those of us who can read to step up and help those who cannot. And it’s not hard, and it doesn’t take a college degree.
Tutoring classes will be held on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. till noon on Feb. 21, 27 and 29. Classes will continue from 9:30 a.m. till noon on March 6, 7 and 13. Volunteers must attend five of the six sessions to be certified. Those who would like to become a tutor should call 974-1812 to preregister.
Lurvey said tutors are always needed and the only requirement is to “be able to read and write.” Teaching experience is not required, she said.
Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County organized in October 2001 and started training tutors in January 2002. The organizations provides one-on-one free tutoring to those over the age of 18.
Heerschap worked with an English as a second language student.
Lurvey said many want help getting their GED or reading the Bible. Both are equally noble.
Lurvey said the primary goal of the organization is to tutor reading and writing, but they also work on speaking and sometimes math.
It would be nice to think that the literacy picture is getting better, but in some ways, it is not. The percentage of people reading at the lowest level increased from 18 percent to 22 percent between 1994 and 1997 based on one study. But the number at the second level fell from 32 percent to 30 percent. The number in levels three through five fell from 50 percent to 48 percent.
All the development efforts in the world won’t bring our economy up if we don’t have a workforce that can match the challenges of industry today. High-paying jobs go to the people who have the education to compete for them. In that respect, raising the literacy level on the Inner Banks should be the first step in any plans for a brighter future.
And we can do it — one person at a time if need be, but we can do it.