Tuesday, October 30, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 49



Programs help adults to read

By Sonia Chavez
News Reporter

Four million Texans, nearly a quarter of the state's adult population, are unable to read basic signs or fill out a job application.

So states a report of the Intercultural Development Research Association, an independent non-profit organization that conducts research on and evaluation of
educational developments.

Of the state's largest cities, El Paso has the highest rate of adult illiteracy at 19.43 percent. San Antonio is second with a 15.05 percent rate and Houston ranks third
at 13.56 percent.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, in its Texas Performance Review, cites the findings of a 1994 survey of adult literacy in Texas that "adult Texans who are
unemployed, poor or near poor, or on public assistance, have significantly lower literacy and educational attainment levels than their fellow Texans who are
employed and self-sufficient."

The study found that the median household income rises $10,000 per year for each of four literacy levels achieved.

Adults in Houston who for some reason were not able to attain a basic education in the public school system have a number of avenues to turn to for help.

One such organization is Literacy Advance of Houston. The group was founded in 1964 by concerned Houstonians inspired by the work of Frank Laubach, a
pioneer of the contemporary adult literacy movement.

The organization operates several learning centers around the city, located in schools, churches and libraries, that provide free classes for people at least 16 years
old. Almost 400 students enrolled in its basic literacy courses in 2000.

"We have a good success rate," said Marcia Club, LAH office manager. "Everyone comes with different goals."

Whether the goal is being able to read to a child, board a bus or fill out an application isn't important as long as the person succeeds, Club said.

Another organization addressing the problem of adult illiteracy is Literacy AmeriCorps, a national service that provides services in four locations in the United States,
including Houston.

"We have about 100 different sites where we assign AmeriCorps members," said Jac Burke, a liaison for the organization, which provides services to more than one
million adult Houstonians who lack the basic skills to get and keep jobs, help their children succeed in school and participate fully in society.

"We are fortunate because not only do we have the honor to touch the lives of other people, but we are touched by them also," Burke said.

Literacy AmeriCorps, which is based on the model of the Peace Corps and is operated here by the Houston READ Commission, makes use of college student
"volunteers" who receive monetary compensation.

"A teacher/tutor will receive $757 a month in exchange for one full year of teaching," Burke said.

Furthermore, after completing 1,700 hours of service, the teacher/tutor receives a $4,715 scholarship.

The organization provides training for its volunteers. For information, call (713) 845-2340.

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