Local nonprofit and libraries work to improve adult literacy

Literacy teachers and adult students work together to improve literacy in the metro. (Community Literacy Centers / provided)

Literacy teachers and adult students work together to improve literacy in the metro. (Community Literacy Centers / provided)

Approximately 140,000 people in the Oklahoma City metro area have limited literacy skills, meaning they often have difficulty doing things like filling out forms or even reading a newspaper.

They might manage for years, adapting to handle day-to-day activities. However, they eventually come to a point where circumstances force them to make a change or they just get tired of working around it.

“Some of these people are really, really smart,” said Becky O’Dell, Community Literacy Centers (CLC) executive director. “They have to learn to be smart; they have to learn to get around when they can’t read. So some of them are amazing in how they’ve compensated in other ways.”

People with reading difficulties might not know where to go for help, but a partnership between Community Literacy Centers and Metropolitan Library System brings the help to them in the form of free, twice-weekly basic literacy classes at three of the system’s libraries: Belle Isle, 5501 N. Villa Ave.; Southern Oaks, 6900 S. Walker Ave.; and Ralph Ellison, 2000 NE 23rd St.

“The best thing to do is to be where they’re at and make it convenient for them to get there,” O’Dell said.

Each phonics-based class meets for two hours. CLC uses state-certified teachers and volunteers to provide individual attention to students who might be struggling.

Because the students might have experienced humiliation as children due to reading difficulties, these courses are designed to be a safe place where participants know they won’t be judged.

“Once they figure out that those things aren’t going to happen, that people aren’t going to make fun of them, that the people in their class are there to support them, it’s amazing how well they will do and how they can learn,” O’Dell said.

She said people might be surprised by some of the reasons some never learned to read and write, from having a learning disability to their family moving around a lot. They might also have been sick frequently as a child, requiring them to miss school and valuable learning opportunities. Or they simply could have fallen through the cracks.

Many of the adults who visit the libraries for help read at third- or fourth-grade levels, which makes it difficult to advance at work or even handle basic tasks such as filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office.

Some just want to be able to read to their children, O’Dell said, or might worry when they’re called in for a conference at their child’s school and don’t understand what’s going on.

CLC tries to keep class sizes between 10 and 15 students to allow for personalized instruction.

The classes are ongoing so students can receive help until they reach literacy goals they set for themselves.

Anyone interested in signing up for the classes can call Community Literacy Centers to receive a quick, easy assessment to determine their reading level before attending a class.

People interested in teaching or volunteering can also call the center to get involved, and O’Dell stressed that CLC is always looking for new organizations to partner with in terms of offering classes.

Visit communityliteracy.com or call 405-524-7323.

print headline: Fostering worth, A local nonprofit and libraries combine resources to improve adult literacy in local communities.

Lea Terry

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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