The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Executive director talks adult illiteracy awareness

By Erick Traska/reporter

One in five adults in Tarrant County cannot read well enough to succeed at a fourth-grade level, a speaker said as part of the Impact of Child Literacy series.Kathryn Thompson, Tarrant Literacy Coalition executive director, addressed the importance of literacy at all ages to roughly 25 people Oct. 13 on TR Campus.

“Less than 10,000 adults are enrolled in any kind of adult literacy program at the present time,” she said.

The population of Tarrant County is roughly 1.8 million, according to the 2010 Census.

Adult literacy is important because it is related to the literacy of our youth, she said. Less than 48 percent of parents in the U.S. read to their child daily, Thompson said.

Also, in lower socioeconomic communities, studies find most parents want to help their child in school but cannot. They are either too busy with work or don’t know how to help their children, Thompson said.

“Gathering the literacy and the knowledge to help their children is very closely the second-most-common reason adults enroll in these programs,” she said.

The most important factor in determining whether a child will or will not drop out of school is whether or not their parents graduated high school, according to research offered in a handout from the speech.

“Poverty impacts your ability to stay in school, and staying in school impacts your ability to stay out of poverty,” Thompson said.

It is not set in stone, but students whose parent or parents were dropouts is much more likely to become a dropout themselves, she said.

“We can break that cycle,” Thompson said.

People can do this by intervening now and making strides in improving literacy in everyone, Thompson said.

According to a 2004 study in The Economist, a rise of 1 percent in literacy scores leads to a 2.5 percent rise in labor productivity and a 1.5 percent rise in the country’s gross domestic product.

High school dropouts cost Texas $9.6 billion, according to an analysis by the United Way of Texas.

Thompson said as a warning to those considering dropping out, the GED is getting much harder and will soon include trigonometry.

Some students said they wanted to get involved in increasing literacy in the community after attending this speech.

“It gives us an opportunity to help the community and the Impact series always offers interesting ideas,” TR student Brian Ruiz said.

TR instructor Michelle Menchaca said the Impact series will give her students the opportunity to give back to the community.

When Thompson was 24 years old and working for a group called the Volunteer Action Center, a man from her hometown said he wanted to start a literacy council to address the real problem of literacy in their community.

She was astonished to find out that one out of four adults in her town could not read “well enough” – they could not read the newspaper, read a restaurant menu or a children’s book.

After moving to Fort Worth seven years ago, she discovered the city had no such institution and eventually formed the Tarrant Literacy Coalition in June 2009.

Thompson and her colleagues raised money, opened an office and eventually found out 100 organizations such as churches, nonprofit groups and even TCC offer programs that promote literacy in Tarrant County, she said.

They decided their mission was to strengthen those programs by providing training and technical support such as computers and books that they will need to help others succeed.

Thompson said they have donated approximately 20,000 books to those looking to improve their literacy so far.

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