Literacy Center seeks volunteers

Georgia’s Task Force on Adult Literacy estimates that one out of three adult Georgians is functionally illiterate. In the Augusta area alone, there are more than 65,000 adults whose basic educational levels are less than those of the average eighth grader. And so the Augusta University Literacy Center seeks volunteers to help children, adolescents and adults improve their reading.

“Reading is the gateway to education, and education is key to empowering our society,” said Dr. Paulette Harris, founder and director of the Augusta University Literacy Center. Dr. Harris is the Cree-Walker Endowed Professor of Education for the Augusta University College of Education.

The center relies on trained volunteers, many of whom are certified teachers, and offers these services free of charge to the community to about 1,000 people each month. But it is desperately short of volunteers.

“Our community holds a collective wealth of knowledge and experience. Everyone has something of value to share. So we encourage everyone to volunteer. But particularly, we encourage retired, active, and pre-service teachers to join us at the Literacy Center,” Harris said.

It’s crucial work. Literacy impacts everything from poverty and income level to incarceration rates. Nearly two-thirds of illiterate adults are employed, but most struggle to find stable employment at a family-sustaining wage, according to the most recent data from the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). A low ability to read leads to limited opportunities for employment or income generation, higher chances of poor health, propensity towards crime and dependence on social welfare. For example, seventy percent of prison inmates cannot read.

“Research makes it clear that we must do everything in our power to ensure that children do not fall behind in their reading skills,” Harris said. “With the help of our volunteers, we are privileged to work on everything from born-to-read to lifelong literacy.”

For more information about volunteering with the Augusta University Literacy Center, contact Dr. Paulette Harris at pharris1@augusta.edu.

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