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FOCUS ON LITERACY

Column: Reading this? 80,000 in Richmond would have trouble doing so.

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On September 12, more than a dozen golfers associated with the Virginia State Golf Association took to a Hanover golf course to play 100 holes in a day to help more golf more accessible for kids. From 8@4 presented by Massey Cancer Center from the Virginai Wayside Furniture studio.

For most of us, we read to discover new information. Reading can be entertaining, sure, but it is an essential skill for putting the pieces together to learn new things or gain direction.

Reading may be second nature for you, as it is for millions. But some adults do not have the luxury of reading information to help them put the pieces together.

In a short definition, Reading is taking letters and symbols and extracting meaning from them. But imagine if you could not decipher meaning behind these letters and symbols. It would be difficult to fill out paperwork for a job, get on the bus, pay bills, help your children with homework, properly take medications, or operate a new piece of machinery at work.

It would be frightening.

And yet, according to international nonprofit ProLiteracy, 43 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level. That’s one in 13 Americans — meaning, you probably interact with some of them daily. We estimate about 80,000 adults in Richmond live with low literacy.

It’s a problem hidden in plain sight. Consider the person who refuses to read aloud, never has their glasses to look at the information immediately, tells you they will “read it later,” wants to take paperwork with them, or jokingly asks you to tell them what a document says.

These individuals attended school, sometimes graduated, and for myriad reasons did not gain the skills to decipher letters or symbols. They have jobs, families, take vacations, and have fun with friends. They live in that “space between,” but do not have the tools to advance their lives or careers.

A recent report from the Coalition on Adult Basic Education showed the federal government spends $852 for every adult learner, compared to $10,000 per pupil for elementary education.

Everyone agrees children are an asset to our future, but adults with low literacy skills are an asset now — but only if we tap into their potential. They can not only become proactive participants in their children’s education, but also fuel the economy. In addition, research shows that a parent’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of their child’s future academic success.

Adult education and literacy programs fill the funding and needs gap. Learning is personal, and literacy gives a person the courage to show up in the world with dignity. When society shames a person for their limited ability to perform, barriers to learning infiltrate, connections are lost, motivation wanes, and an individual’s belief to achieve more might be destroyed by others’ inability to see their potential.

We must band together to create literacy spaces that include everyone. Because everyone deserves a literate life — especially adults.