‘Tis the Season to Give Back: Literacy Councils and the Gift of Reading

December 4, 2015
by Maryland Humanities

December is here! For most of us that means searching for the perfect holiday gift or seeking comfort with a good book and a warm blanket.

At the Maryland Humanities Council we love to read, discuss, and share our ideas and we know our supporters feel the same way. But it’s easy to take our reading skills for granted. Did you know you could change another person’s life forever just by reading together? Maryland has a strong network of county literacy councils and all of them run on the power of volunteers.

Read what Lisa Vernon, Executive Director of the Anne Arundel County Literacy Council, says about the gift of reading and how you can help:

You may be surprised to learn that there are an estimated 70,000 adults in Anne Arundel County who do not have the basic literacy skills needed to obtain a GED. When these same adults increase their reading, writing, and basic math skills, even before passing the GED, they are more likely to lift themselves out of poverty, contribute to improved health care costs, and find and keep employment. Undoubtedly, this has a positive effect on families, on Anne Arundel County, and on society as a whole.

The Anne Arundel County Literacy Council (AACLC) addresses this need by providing free, individualized reading, writing, math, and speaking English instruction for adults and out-of-school youth in Anne Arundel County who have low level literacy skills. There is no charge to the student for the books, tutoring, or assessments they receive, and they can meet in any public location in the county, which includes all 15 county libraries and over 17 community agencies.

Each student’s story is unique and inspiring. Angelica is a Head Start mom who is working to achieve her GED so that she can better provide for her young children. Harvey and Maria were both able to keep their jobs by improving their reading and then passing a required written test. Jorge was able to pass his citizenship test.

Imagine…

  • Having to pretend you can read and living in fear that you may be found out.
  • Not being able to read the warning labels on your children’s prescriptions.
  • Not being able to find work because you can’t read the classifieds or complete a job application.
  • Not being able to read written instructions, the newspaper, road signs, etc.

Howard is one of 205 adults and out-of-school youth who received free reading and writing instruction from the Literacy Council last year. Due to severe dyslexia, Howard could read 2 words when he came to us for help – Orioles and Ravens, his 2 favorite sports teams. “I got tired of having to have someone go with me to doctors’ offices to help me fill out the paperwork. I wasn’t able to read a menu so I stayed away from restaurants because I was embarrassed. I was never able to vote,” Howard said.

After years of trying to cover up his low reading skills, he determined that he would learn to read. He searched for someone to teach him but found that there were no state-sponsored reading programs. Fortunately, he discovered the county’s Literacy Council program. He was matched with volunteer literacy tutors who have faithfully met with him twice weekly for the past 3 years. The result? Howard is now at a 4th grade reading level, he registered to vote and voted for the first time, he reads the newspaper every morning, and he can now read road signs, menus, written instructions, etc.

If you know of any adult needing literacy help, or you would like to be trained as a volunteer literacy or math tutor, please call the Literacy Council office at 410-269-4419.

Interested in volunteering but don’t live in the Anne Arundel County area?  Check out a full list of literacy councils in Maryland counties here.

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Maryland Humanities is a statewide, educational nonprofit organization that creates and supports educational experiences in the humanities that inspire all Marylanders to embrace lifelong learning, exchange ideas openly, and enrich their communities.
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