Local nonprofit helps adults learn to read

Local nonprofit helps adults learn to read

After a while of being afraid to ask for help, a man finally decided to come to the Literacy Council of Central Alabama’s adult basic literacy program. During his first lesson, he felt encouraged by the tutors who helped him fulfill his dream to learn how to read. So much so, he cried tears of joy and relief throughout the lesson.

This is not an unusual story for the tutors at the Literacy Council of Central Alabama to tell. With 24% of Alabama adults reading at the lowest level, there are many in need of help. This is where the Literacy Council of Central Alabama steps in. The Birmingham-based nonprofit’s vision is to maximize every adult’s literacy proficiency to create a better Alabama. With their five learning programs, the Literacy Council of Central Alabama teaches adults how to read and speak.

“My why is because I genuinely care and have a desire to help others succeed,” Director of ESOL and Field Programs Stephanie Lyas said. “I am convinced that is also why so many at The Literacy Council do what we do. Simply put: we care. We care about helping others be successful in achieving their goals. We care about making a difference in the lives of others.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Alabama’s literacy rate falls below the national public education literacy rate. In 2019, Alabama scored 212 out of 500 for the reading public average scale score, with the national average as 219. On June 10, 2019, the Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Literacy Act. This act promotes steps for public education to implement to improve literacy for kindergarten to third-grade students to ensure the children can read at or above the grade level. However, for adults already out of school or new citizens learning English, they need teachers outside of the state’s public education system to help them learn how to read and speak English.

The Literacy Council of Central Alabama’s programs help increase literacy in Alabama adults. These programs include adult basic literacy, family literacy, a GED with Jefferson State Community College, workplace development and literacy, and English for Speakers of Other Languages.

These programs are hosted in churches, community centers, libraries, and schools in counties throughout central Alabama. From one-on-one tutoring to group learning in classes, these programs are taught by volunteer tutors during the day and evening to help adults find the help they need. 

Learning how to read and speak English does not only improve someone’s education. Better literacy also provides more job opportunities, better health care, and improves the economy.

It also helps those battling other struggles. One student struggled with addiction for years. When he wanted to become sober and entered a treatment program, his counselor encouraged him to improve his literacy as a way to maintain his sobriety and to find a better job. So, he joined a program with the Literacy Council of Central Alabama. Two years later, he has been able to stay sober and find a higher-paying job.

There are countless stories just like this one. From a mother learning how to read in order to help her son learn to a Guatemalan immigrant learning English to provide a better future for his family, the nonprofit works with individuals, hoping to spark a change in each family and local community.

The staff and tutors of the Literacy Council of Central Alabama hope their students pass along the gift of reading. If they can help a mother or brother or friend learn how to read, who knows who they may pass along their newfound knowledge to, making Alabama a better place one word at a time.