Living Columns & Blogs

Mid-State Literacy Council has array of programs for community members

To be fully literate in today’s complex society, a person must be able to read, write, do math and use a computer.

As a child she was sick often and fell behind in school. A deep hopelessness overcame her as a young adult until her sister told her about the Mid-State Literacy Council. In her 20s, she began to learn to read better while working with trained volunteer tutors. Equipped with stronger reading and computer skills, she obtained her driver’s license, and said she felt normal and included in her peer group. With increased confidence she applied on-line for her first job, interviewed and began working part time. To promote to full-time work with benefits or enter a training program, she continues to work with her tutors to improve her reading, math and writing skills. She’s beginning to dream of possibilities, such as helping others in the health care profession.

Our dream is that no one lacks literacy so that everyone can access a life of safety, realized goals and community participation.

In 1971, community members led by Ruth Kistler — who recently celebrated her 95th birthday — established Mid-State Literacy Council. Currently, 200 trained volunteers are teaching young adults and adults through Mid-State Literacy Council. Both parents and children are benefiting. Supporters of literacy are donating books and funds to our children’s book drive for children who don’t have books at home. Over time, the summer learning slide can add up to the equivalent of three years of reading loss by the end of fifth grade.

Because of the distribution of more than 5,000 books in May, children are reading, practicing and returning to school prepared for the new year. School success leads to literacy for life. Roald Dahl wrote in “Matilda,” “All the reading she had done had given her a view of life they had never seen.” Thank you to Barnes and Noble State College for leading the holiday book drive and you, our community members, who are giving books to Centre County children.

Literacy in action is the movement from poverty to well-being. Nimble, flexible, accessible, the literacy council programs include one-to-one tutoring and small classes. While learning skills, classes such as English for Doctor’s Visits and Women’s Health, teach life-saving information. We thank the Women’s Leadership Group of Centre County United Way for funding seven new lessons including cervical cancer and pregnancy complications at the third- and fifth-grade reading levels. Women in our classes were living with pain thinking they would have pain until they died. Now they are reaching out for help.

To be a literacy supporter, call 238-1809, email or visit

Amy Wilson is the executive director of Mid-State Literacy Council, Inc.