As the Literacy Council of Carroll County celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, I think back to the very beginning when the primary focus of the organization was to teach people to read and write, period. Then being literate meant being able to read and write at a minimal level.
Defining literacy in our changing world is not an easy task. In today’s environment it is more defined as being proficient at reading and math, knowing how to use technology and understanding the basic principles of problem-solving and decision-making.
According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, approximately 44 million people in the United States cannot read well enough to fill out a job application, read a food label, or even read a children’s book. In Maryland, it is estimated 21% of all adults do not have a high school diploma. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that literacy issues cost businesses $225 billion a year in lost productivity.
So what does the Literacy Council of Carroll County offer our residents?
First, we offer completely free training to everyone. Second, all programs are taught on a one-to-one basis. There is no set timetable for completion, the student and tutor work together to ensure the student reaches their goal.
Our programs include instruction in the following areas: Basic literacy, workplace literacy, English speakers of other languages (ESOL), and preparation for General Education Development (GED). We have a veterans program for all veterans and their spouses. There is an English Conversational Class for group discussions to help improve speaking and understanding. The Council will assist in the training for trade licenses and special needs such as a basic drivers or CDL license (written test requirements only). We provide a citizenship training program that has been extremely successful.
What does this all mean to the residents of Carroll County? We fill a need for an educated, quality workforce that will lead to a decrease in joblessness and welfare dependency. Literacy training assists people in preparing to perform their roles as family members, workers, and citizens.
The Council has helped many individuals to learn to read, and to prepare for GED. But, we also have helped high school graduates with gaining admission to college. We have been able to provide specialized training for young men to be able to pass entrance exams for the military. We work with the business community to train their employees in specific areas so that they may be promoted to higher paying jobs. Our training is open to all who need to further their education regardless of the level they have already attained.
Many people believe the Literacy Council is a book club. Hopefully, this article has helped define the goal and purpose of the Literacy Council. We want to make Carroll County better for all, if you know of someone who could make use of our services, urge them to call us at 410 857-0766 and speak confidentially with our staff.
Sam Greenholtz is the executive director of the Literacy Council of Carroll County.