Florence Literacy Council says high illiteracy rate contributes to crime, unemployment

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Twenty-one percent of Americans read below a fifth-grade reading level, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. In Florence, that number jumps to 33 percent. The Florence Area Literacy Council wants to start a new program to help more people learn to read.

Every day for the last 12 years Christina Lawson, Florence Area Literacy Council Executive Director, has taught adults how to read better.

“The most important part of our job is to let them know that we know that’s the biggest and most important decision that they have made and we want to support them,” she explained.

Lawson says 33% of adults in Florence County are ‘functionally illiterate,’ which means they read at or below a fifth-grade reading level.

“Our crime rates, unemployment rates everything can be tied back to high illiteracy rates,” said Lawson. “Really it’s a disability for them.”

Daily tasks like filling out job applications, reading prescriptions, or helping their students are much harder.

“As an adult [and] as a parent, not being able to help their child with their homework [or] not being able to read a bedtime story or help them anything really, it becomes an issue of a parent having to tell a child ‘no I can’t do that’. It’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because they can’t,” explained Lawson.

Lawson says transportation is often another obstacle for adult students. The Literacy Council hopes to set up offices at apartment complexes or churches to offer to tutor.

“If you can go to your church and study at your church with the people that you know, we hope that that will make a difference in how they feel about going back and keeping them encouraged,” she said.

The literacy council will provide books and computers. Lawson says they will train volunteers to teach.

“If we can help one person and make a huge difference in their lives, that is what we are here for,” she concludes.

If you would like to open a church and tutor adults with the Florence Area Literacy Council visit 240 S. Dargan Street Florence, SC 29506 or call 843-667-1908.