According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 20% of DeKalb County adult residents lack basic literacy skills. 20% may not seem like a lot, but that 20% equates to 101,010 people, age 16 and up, without the ability to proficiently read and/or write. That percentage is considerably high when compared to the entire State of Georgia which only averages 17%.
So where do those 101, 010 people go to seek literacy assistance? In short, the library. Public libraries play a major role in a community’s literacy rates. Having books, reading, and writing programs available have a positive effect on a community. DeKalb County has stepped up and its public library system offers many literacy services to help promote literacy growth. Those services include Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language (ESOL), Online Resources and Learning Tools, Tests and Careers, and Literacy Outreach.
Laura Hauser, an 18-year literacy service administrative for DeKalb Count Public Library (DCPL), states, “…we ‘touch’ around 10,000 [people] per year…” She also states that the English as Second Language courses serves, ” 100-120 students… each week for 50 weeks per year.” The library also partners with many different organizations such as Project Horizons, a collective of homeless shelters in the county, and Literacy Action, a non-profit literacy agency based in Georgia. Hauser states that the collaboration with Project Horizons is, “our effort to support homeless children and youth (and their families) through weekly support at various homeless shelters in our service.” Literacy Action helps to provide volunteers for the aforementioned ESOL courses. These volunteers are, “trained professionals or people like retired CDC staff who traveled the world and have great experience in working with multi-cultural and multi-literacy levels efforts. Some have ESOL degrees or certificates.”
DCPL promotes its literacy services through participation in Literacy Day at the Capitol, Decatur Book Festival, etc. Hauser states that participation in events such as these, “keep the need for adult and family literacy in front of many people’s consciousness to promote funding and use of existing programs and resources, as well as increases in legislative and local efforts…” DCPL is striving to decrease its illiteracy rates through theses program, but literacy is more than the ability to read and write. Hauser believes it’s a “lifelong effort to improve a variety of skill sets that keep changing in response to new social, civic and economic pressures felt by workers, family members, citizens across a wide range.”