Letter | Lack of literacy in Myrtle Beach-area affects us all

03/03/2014 5:13 PM

03/03/2014 5:14 PM

It is common to hear about friends and relatives who have experienced some type of cancer or other disease and the great support that is offered from so many, for months that follow with the hope of recovery, for a long life. However, adults who have a learning disability, or a child with the warning signs of dyslexia, seem to struggle for the support needed to enable them to improve their reading, writing, and spelling skills. Not everyone learns the same and if it isn’t working, change the method, not the adult or child.

Horry County had a population over 282,000 as of 2012. The most recent Census shows the county has a high illiteracy rate meaning that many are unable to read street signs, fill out forms, read prescription labels, help their children with homework, or acquire a job.

Even though the following information pertains to US Facts (www.proliteracy.org) imagine the similar impact on Horry County. Fourteen percent of adults over 16 read at or below a fifth grade level; 29 percent read at an eighth grade level; and, of those with the lowest literacy rates, 43 percent live in poverty. When we refer to the corrections facilities, 75 percent of the state prison inmates and 59 percent of federal prison inmates did NOT complete high school. Low health literacy adds an estimated $230 billion to the country’s health care costs. Patients with low literacy skills have a 50 percent increased risk of hospitalization. The effects of low literacy in the workforce, costs the US more than $225 billion each year in non-productivity.

In the world of technology (digital literacy) as we see it today, basic literacy skills are not enough. Adults need computer skills and access to technology to succeed in our society whether they are trying to apply for a job online, find health information or simply send an email to their child’s teacher.

The Horry County Literacy Council originated in 1976 and has been consistent in its services to those who need one on one tutoring provided through trained volunteers. Over the years, research has proven that not all learn the same and therefore the HCLC board and staff has had to educate itself in how to move forward and provide additional avenues to those who need special intervention methods due to a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.

Place yourself in a medical situation where you need a transplant to live but have to be placed on a waiting list! Compare a situation where you need the right tools to make the grade in school to survive to move to the next grade, or, be held back. Perhaps you didn’t get help to meet your particular learning style due to dyslexia or a similar learning disability from someone in a “one on one” situation when you needed it most.

The Literacy Council is only asking two hours a week of your time to learn more about dyslexia, which 20 percent of our population experiences from mild to severe. If you have an interest in the quality of our workforce in Horry County or making an effort to decrease the high school dropout rate, please consider becoming a volunteer tutor, an advocate, or a board member. We cannot solve the problem with just a handful of dedicated volunteers. The Council cannot meet the demands of the number of students waiting (23 and growing) without your help. Please consider giving two hours a week to help our community become more literate. You will receive more than you give.

The Council is funded primarily by the United Way of Horry County, grants, fundraisers, individual donations, and book sales. However, due to the “Nook” and “Kindle” our book sales are not as they once were and we are beginning to close out the books, all $1 or less.

The Council is located in the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center at 3101 Oak Street, Myrtle Beach. Please call 843-839-1695 to see how you can help. The demand for help is overwhelming! Call soon to see what is involved in becoming a volunteer or a board member.

The writer is board chair of the Horry County Literacy Council.

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