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Friday, November 28, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Editorial: Illiteracy still a problem in 2013

Last Modified: Friday, July 19, 2013 5:08 PM

A nearly $1 million federal grant to Jeff Davis Parish to improve reading and writing skills there serves as a reminder to the scourge of illiteracy.

The ability to read and write forms the very foundation of education. Without competence in either skill dooms millions of people across our nation to not only a struggle, and oftentimes failure in their educational career, but a life of unrealized potential.

Illiteracy is a cruel fate. It robs its victims of the pleasures of literature, whether it be the Bible, a classic like Herman Melville’s ‘‘Moby Dick’’ or Mark Twain’s ‘‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’’, a biography on Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King Jr., a history of a pivotal events like Stephen Ambrose’s ‘‘D-Day’’ or Shelby Foote’s ‘‘Shiloh’’ or some gothic novel or self-help book.

Imagine not being able to take advantage of a library or book store because of poor reading skills.

But it goes much further in everyday activities that we take for granted: menus, recipes, food labels, newspapers, magazines, computers, utility bills, directions on medicine bottles or how to repair an appliance are out of bounds for the illiterate.

Those who either can’t read or read at a poor level are, in a sense, shackled, their lives made much more difficult with an affliction that can be overcome.

That’s where the federal money comes in. The grant through the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant program will be used to provide literacy training, books for children and additional classroom technology.

It’s but one tool in an entire box of aids intended to improve literacy. Literacy Council of Southwest Louisiana Executive Director Tommeka Semien says there are about 600,000 adults in Louisiana that do not have a high school diploma or General Education Development, including between 15,000 and 20,000, or as many as 1-in-10 in Calcasieu Parish.

The Literacy Council’s approach is basically two-pronged. It’s Adult Literacy Program is geared to help people who would like to improve their reading skills, no matter of their current level. Last year, the program served between 700 and 800, and Semien says an expansion of the program aims to serve 1,200 adults in the next couple of years.

The Literacy Council also targets pre-schoolers and elementary school students through a variety of programs, including after-school mentoring, summer camps and library visits and parents reading to and with their pre-school children.

All of this is commendable because the alternative — the inability to read and a quite limited reading skill, can have a crippling effect on a person’s future.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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