Literacy organizations are marking International Literacy Day on Saturday as part of September’s Literacy Month, but 45 years after the day was designated the problem of adult literacy continues to plague the nation and Horry County.
“Here at home, in our own community, we know that 25 percent to 30 percent of the population in Horry County reads below a fifth-grade level,” said Pat Bush, director of the Horry County Literacy Council. “Twenty percent of the entire population has some type of learning difficulty, most commonly known as dyslexia, and too many of our children do not graduate with a high school diploma.”
Bush and Pat Santaniello, program coordinator, staff the literacy council, which provides a variety of literacy programs with the aid of trained volunteers. Programs include basic literacy for improving reading, writing or math skills; a dyslexia program for those with learning difficulties; English as a Second Language (ESL); and a family literacy program for children and their parents.
ProLiteracy, the country’s largest membership organization working for adult literacy and basic education, reported that more than 30 million of the country’s adults lack basic literacy skills. The group provides educational tools to help community-based groups, and in February, it accredited the Horry County council, which was required to pass 16 standards, Bush said.
“We’re part of the top 20 percent of literacy councils in the nation,” Santaniello said. “We’re very innovative, especially with our programs.”
Dyslexia is the predominant problem people have, and Bush said 1 in 5 people will have warning signs of the condition, which is a neurological language processing disorder that can be accommodated once it is diagnosed. She and Santaniello recently attended a six-day seminar with Susan Barton, developer of the Barton Reading and Spelling System, to learn how to screen for dyslexia, and the council already has worked with 35 students with the condition.
“Most people aren’t aware of what it is that’s wrong,” Bush said. “We can give them ideas to the problem, what it is and what it is not, and they always end up feeling better. It gives them hope.”
Myrtle Pugh said her son, Charles, now 9, was having trouble reading and was diagnosed with dyslexia at the end of his second-grade year at Homewood Elementary School in Conway. Last year, he was put into a reading program, Pugh said, but as a third-grader, he was still reading at the first-grade level. She said she began to research dyslexia on the Internet because she knew nothing about it, and a friend where she works told her about the literacy council.
Six months ago, she and Charles began working with Santaniello, who said she works two hours with a family as a unit, then the parent works with their child another five hours during a week. Charles is now reading at the third-grade level, and Pugh said she couldn’t be more relieved.
“My son was struggling so hard, and as a parent, you’re doing the best that you can,” Pugh said. “The Susan Barton program has helped him tremendously. He’s learned how to sound out his vowels, he’s learned how to spell … I’m so excited and happy for him. [The literacy council] gets five stars.”
Pugh said Charles’ teachers are still working with them, and literacy volunteers can help coordinate with resource teachers. She said even though she is in the nursing field, she is surprised at how many people don’t know about dyslexia.
Santaniello said the council began the dyslexia program two years ago, and it is helping people at all age levels, including a man who had struggled for years and was unable to read street signs. She said he now reads on a third-grade level and has a goal to one day be able to take the General Educational Development, or GED, test.
The council currently serves about 85 active students, although those numbers are fluid. Twenty students are children with dyslexia issues, while about 50 adults are split between programs for basic literacy skills, dyslexia issues and ESL.
Bush said the group has about 100 volunteers, but they always need more. Materials and training are provided for tutors in each area and are free, except for those in dyslexia training, which costs about $10 per level of training. She said people also can volunteer for committees, which work on projects such as the Murder Mystery, the council’s largest fundraiser, which will be held Jan. 26.
For anyone who is in need of help, Bush said calling is the first step.
“There are methods available,” Bush said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.