Fourteen percent of Walker Countians are illiterate, and a local organization is aiming to change that.The Literacy Council of Walker County has been working since 1997 to bring reading and writing …
Fourteen percent of Walker Countians are illiterate, and a local organization is aiming to change that.
The Literacy Council of Walker County has been working since 1997 to bring reading and writing services to citizens. At one point, 37 percent of the county's residents were illiterate.
"We are definitely seeing a difference, but 14 percent is still a lot of people," Literacy Council of Walker County coordinator Chandra Rice said.
Illiteracy has been a common topic of discussion in the county since the ABC program "What Would You Do?" shed some light on the issue. The show filmed a segment at Lavish Coffee Bar in Jasper earlier this year to explore how people would react to a cashier being rude to an illiterate man as he attempted to order a milkshake.
The way members of the community responded touched everyone.
"So many families are affected by illiteracy, and I think that's where it hit home," Lavish Coffee Bar owner Dustin Beaty said in a Facebook live interview with Daily Mountain Eagle publisher James Phillips on Friday.
Customers at the coffee shop during the "What Would You Do?" segment helped the actor, who pretended he couldn't read, place an order. Producers interviewed customer and local educator Gayle Crump, who was particularly upset when she witnessed the man was being ridiculed for being illiterate.
"I know that people think in 2019 every person has the same opportunities in education, but they don't," Crump said. "If you're a person who grows up in poverty, you may not grow up in a situation where you have access to public education."
Rice said the literacy council works to serve those who may have lacked educational opportunities through adult tutoring, and Rice also visits schools to help children who struggle with reading and writing.
"If you're not reading to level by the time you're in the third-grade, the statistics tell us you're never going to read to level unless you get some specialized care," she said.
The Literacy Council of Walker County sponsors book clubs in county schools where children are provided with books to read. The literacy council gives away 6,000 to 9,000 books to children in schools each year, which can cost $200 to $300 per classroom.
Teens Assisting Teens to Succeed is another popular program sponsored by the literacy council where children who struggle to read receive peer tutoring from high school students.
Rice said another service of the literacy council is an English as a second language course held each Thursday at St. Cecilia's Catholic Church.
The literacy council has also held Census meetings recently to discuss ways to reach people who can't read when it comes to completing Census documents.
"We not only want to reach them to get them into our program to teach them to read but we want to make sure they're being counted in every way that matters," Rice said.
Much of The Literacy Council of Walker County's funding comes from the Walker Area Community Foundation, and the general public can send monetary donations to the literacy council by check to 1400 W. 19th St., Jasper, Alabama 35501.
Rice said the literacy council also welcomes donations of adult and children's books. She said these books are vital to people who don't have transportation and visit the center to get books.
The Literacy Council of Walker County's office is located at the old West Jasper Elementary School. People can stop by Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday to get books or inquire about the literacy council's services.
All services provided by The Literacy Council of Walker County are free of charge.
Rice said the literacy council is always in need of volunteers to read in schools or serve as tutors. Tutors are not required to have a background in education but must complete a training course.
"Volunteers are our lifeblood. We're in desperate need of volunteers," Rice said.
To seek the literacy council's services, call 205-387-0511, ext. 5792.