Rotary and Literacy in Pickens County
10/9/2018 ~ by Judy Harvey
As all Rotarians are well aware, the goal of improving literacy in our communities and around the world is of critical importance to the well-being of our citizenry.
Globally, more than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate. That’s 17 percent of the world’s adult population. At a state level, one of every six Georgian adults is currently low literate, and a full sixty-three percent of our third graders are not reading proficiently by the end of their third-grade year. Adults with low literacy cost Georgia approximately $1.3 billion annually in social services and lost revenue. This year alone in Georgia, 88 percent of all jobs require a high school diploma or post-secondary credentials and more than 820,000 Georgians do not qualify for these jobs (1).
Rotary’s goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy. The Rotary Club of Jasper is active in a variety of local programs intended to further the goal of improving literacy, and we discussed some of those programs at our meeting on September 26 as we celebrated National Literacy Month.
Little Free Library: We talked about this program a few months ago, and since then, we have watched as several of these libraries have found homes around our community. Rotarian Jeff Downing described that he has just opened a Free Library outside of the IGA Market at Foothills. Jeff’s goals with this project are to build community, spark creativity, and inspire readers. Meanwhile, several other Rotarians are also involved in placing LFLs in Pickens County. We’ll keep track and provide updates as they are put in place.
Ferst Readers of Pickens County: Ferst Foundation has a new name – Ferst Readers -- but the mission is the same. Ferst Readers addresses one of the most basic issues of childhood literacy, which is to ensure the availability of quality books in the home so that parents can read to their children.
Sue Appleton described to us that Ferst Readers of Pickens County is reaching 70-75% of families and placing books in the hands of children under the age of five. But more needs to be done, particularly in the western end of Pickens County where the situation is more desperate and much more help is needed. Sue encouraged us to explore for opportunities to place Little Free Libraries in that area to help to address those needs.
Ferst Readers of Pickens County is currently mailing over 1,100 age-appropriate books with literacy support materials to children under the age of five each month, and they have mailed more than 110,000 books with literacy support materials since May 2009. They are truly dedicated to the promise that a child’s path to a brighter future is paved with books.
Dictionaries for Third Graders: Rotarian Max Caylor spoke about our four-year old program of placing a dictionary in the hands of every third-grade child in Pickens County. He shared some of the history of the ‘Dictionary Project’ of which we are a part and which has been responsible for the distribution of more than 18 million dictionaries throughout the world since 1995.
This year, the Rotary Club of Jasper, in partnership with Community Bank of Pickens County, will distribute 275 dictionaries to students in the three elementary schools in Pickens County.
Adult Literacy in Pickens County: Amy Denney, Associate Director of Adult Education at Chattahoochee Technical College and Pickens Certified Literate Community Program (PCLCP) Director, made a return visit to give us an update on progress being made with improving adult literacy in Pickens County. She implored us to get involved, to talk to the school system about referring parents, to volunteer and to continue to raise awareness of adult education services and PCLCP. She also invited any of us who might be interested in serving on the board of PCLCP to contact her.
(1) Excerpt from opinion piece by Wendell Dallas, Chair of Georgia’s State Workforce Development Board, published in myAJC online September 21, 2018.