What is literacy?
Literacy is the ability to read, write, compute and use technology at a level that enables an individual to reach their full potential.
In the United States, one-fifth of the adult population cannot read well enough to function successfully as workers, parents and citizens. In Georgia 1.2 million adults 18 years and older do not have a high school diploma or GED® credential.
Illiteracy in Thomas County follows the same trends found in other counties in Georgia and the United States. Just over 19 percent of the population of Thomas County ages 25 and over do not have a high school diploma or GED credential. The number increases when the population 16-24 years is added.
Adults with lower literacy skills are less likely to read to their children and children’s literacy levels are strongly linked to the educational levels of their parents, especially their mothers. Children who have not already developed basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out of school. Low literacy skills also have a direct impact on crime, recidivism, poverty, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.
Statistics indicate that the greatest barrier to economic development and growth is the absence of a literate workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, illiteracy costs business and industry in the U.S. Southeast nearly $57.2 billion annually; in Georgia the cost is $2.1 billion annually. In addition to the impact on economy, illiteracy can also impact an individual’s health. Patients with low literacy skills have difficulty reading prescriptions and are 50 percent are more likely to die from disease than patients who are literate.
Low literacy and low educational attainment are directly correlated with higher crime rates. More than 45 percent of all inmates in local jails, 40 percent in state facilities, and 27 percent in federal corrections institutions did not graduate from high school. Fifty-five percent of Georgia’s inmates (the fifth highest inmate population in the country) do not have a high school diploma or GED credential. In addition, seven in ten prisoners perform in the lowest two literacy levels.
Illiteracy is a cycle that negatively affects everyone in the community and needs to be broken. So what is the solution? What can be done to address the literacy needs in Thomas County? We can get involved in literacy programs. There are numerous programs in our community that target adults, teens and children where you can volunteer your time and talents. Last year, nearly 600 people enrolled in Adult Education classes in Thomas County seeking to improve their education. Chances are you know someone who needs their GED credential or high school diploma. If so, offer your support and encouragement. It could be as simple as giving someone a ride or watching their child for a few hours while they attend class. Childcare and transportation are two of the most common barriers adult learners face when returning to school!
On Sept. 8, the nation and the world will celebrate International Literacy Day. The day was first proclaimed in 1965 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to focus attention on worldwide literacy needs. Governor Nathan Deal is joining others in the nation in extending this day into a week by designating September 8, 2013 as Literacy Day and September 23-29, 2013 as Literacy Week in Georgia. Literacy groups in Thomasville and Thomas County will be providing numerous activities highlighting literacy throughout September. One of these events will be the One Book: Time to Read Together, Thomas County’s first community-wide reading experience. One Book is a celebration of community and literacy featuring events for the whole family. It encourages Thomas County residents to read one specific book during the month of September, and is designed to promote literacy, reading and arts awareness, and encourage community interaction and dialogue through exciting tie-in events.
Join the celebration and support literacy projects that make our community a better place to live and work.
For more information about attaining a GED credential or adult education classes, please contact Southwest Georgia Technical College’s Executive Director of Adult Education Dale Aldridge at (229)225-5292 or email@example.com.