Help for 73,000 illiterate adults

Editor’s note:(This editorial first appeared in the Lexington County Chronicle June 13, 2013)

How many illiterate adults do you know? How many who can neither read, write nor even count change? What if you were in the same fix? Imagine what your life might be like — filled with shame that even your children are learning skills that you don’t have. You can’t help them with their homework, or  read the Bible, as many of the learners we work with in the Turning Pages tutoring program are motivated to do. Adults who struggle with reading are among an estimated more than 27,000 Lexington County residents — 10% of the county’s population.

They are not alone. Richland County has 46,000 adults who read below a 6th grade reading level. That’s 12% of Richland’s population. In all, 73,000 functionally illiterate adults live in our two counties and studies indicate that  19% or more of the population are below this threshold, in parts of the Midlands. Functional literacy is the ability to read, write and speak proficiently in English, use technology, solve problems, be a life-long learner and effective in  life.

Illiterate adults are not stupid. Many have learning disabilities that make it difficult for them to read and write. Many have mastered skills the rest of us would find daunting. Some are like the short order cook who holds a dozen orders in memory and prepares them without being able to read written orders from the wait staff. Or the driver with a perfect on-time delivery record who cannot read the addresses on the packages he handles. But he can follow a map and his spatial memory is exceptional.

Last week, 60 public-spirited people came together for our first Reading Between the Wines dinner, hosted by Main Street Cafe owner George Trifos and Palmetto Wines & Spirits owner Sandi Patel. The dinner raised almost $1,500 to help Turning Pages tutors make a difference in the lives of their learners.

At the Chronicle, we were happy to be among the dinner’s sponsors with the West Metro Rotary Club, Lexington Young Professionals, AGG Advisers and Pine Press Printing. We hope to arrange a similar fund-raising dinner soon.