Helping Hands | Literacy training helps in work, life

June 17, 2014 

Imagine not being able to read to your children or understand directions on the medicine label when they are sick with bronchitis. The census reports that about 11 percent of adults in Centre County and 14 percent in Clearfield County are functionally illiterate. Illiteracy prevents people from entering the workforce and is inter-generational. Low literacy is linked to poor health outcomes, including higher rates of hospitalization and difficulty accessing health care. Mid-State Literacy Council is committed to helping its students improve their lives and their families’ lives by promoting health literacy and employment literacy. Your investment in literacy positively affects our community.

Health literacy is a major focus at Mid-State Literacy Council. The Department of Health and Human Services defines health literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” Individuals with limited health literacy may have trouble reading and understanding food labels, completing health assessment forms, communicating symptoms to a clinician, measuring medications, navigating the health care system or following self-care instructions. MSLC tutors cover topics such as making a 911 call, filling out medical information forms, talking to the doctor, and prenatal care. Tutors who work with students one on one or in small groups individualize their instruction to address their students’ unique needs.

Workplaces require increasingly higher skills. John Tyler, associate professor of education at Brown University, concluded from his research that young adults with higher math skills do better at entry-level jobs and earn more. MSLC students are learning reading, math, English and writing skills to qualify for employment training programs, pass the commercial driver’s license exam and maintain employment. Students work with more than 200 trained volunteer tutors to acquire literacy skills: reading for employment, writing memos and emails, solving math problems for work and English for communicating with co-workers. As a result, students are obtaining employment, advancing in the workplace, entering training programs and better providing for their families.

As part of its commitment to literacy, for three years MSLC has partnered with local Lutheran parishes, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and local businesses for its annual book drive to benefit elementary students in the Bald Eagle Area School District and Philipsburg. MSLC donated more than 5,000 books for children to read over the summer to support their reading skills.

Adults who want help are encouraged to call MSLC at 238-1809. MSLC offers a range of classes and one-on-one tutoring mornings, afternoons and evenings. Instruction is provided in Centre and Clearfield counties. Trained volunteers work with structured texts and curricula customized to individual students to support achievement.

New volunteers are welcome to sign up for volunteer training. For those interested in helping but unable to volunteer, donations and gifts can be made online at mid-stateliteracycouncil.org. We can be reached at mslc@mid-stateliteracycouncil.org and found at 248 E.Calder Way, Suite 307, State College.

Amy Wilson is executive director and Lisa McMonagle is English as a second language coordinator for Mid-State Literacy Council.

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