Living Columns & Blogs

How Mid-State Literacy Council helps people in Centre County lead safer, more connected lives

If you are reading this article, you can accomplish something that 11 percent of Centre County residents are unable to do, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Low literacy not only limits people’s access to information and opportunity; it can even affect their ability to take care of themselves. In fact, the American Journal for Public Health reported in 2016 that an excess of $230 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy. Nearly half of American adults have difficulty understanding and using health information, which impedes their abilities to make appropriate health decisions and increases the likelihood that they’ll incur higher health costs.

Mid-State Literacy Council helps individuals gain the skills they need to avoid these consequences and lead safer, more connected lives. The Council offers health literacy and women’s health classes which focus on communicating with doctors, understanding medicine labels, nutrition and more. Additionally, a women’s and men’s health literacy curriculum developed by Karen Loerch, Literacy Coordinator, allows one-to-one tutors to communicate vital health information to their students.

“The most important aspect of creating the Women’s Health lessons is empowering women. A tutor recently shared with me how little her student knew about ovarian cancer. Her new knowledge enables her to advocate for her health care needs,” Loerch said.

Mid-State volunteer tutors are committed to providing literacy education to adults who are struggling due to their low-level English, reading, computer, math and speaking skills. Adults want to gain these skills to improve their independence in daily activities such as understanding their bills and reading notes from their children’s teachers. Because of Mid-State, adults are equipped to meet their needs.

One student at Mid-State, Maria, lived in Cuba before moving to Miami to be closer to her sisters. Learning English was important to her, so she tried watching television shows and YouTube videos. She became frustrated when trying to complete everyday activities like going to the grocery store and doctor’s office. Last fall, she came to Mid-State Literacy Council to improve her listening and speaking, “Before, I was afraid. Now, I can understand better when people speak to me in my daily life.”

In order to raise funds to provide literacy education programs, the Council hosts an annual adult spelling bee fundraiser. Sponsors support teams that spell in the competition for both glory and prizes. This year’s “20th Anniversary Ron and Mary Maxwell Community Spelling Bee” will be held at Foxdale Village in State College on April 10. Food willbe served at 5:30 p.m. and the “Bee” starts at 6 p.m.

If you would like more information about the programs at Mid-State, contact Amy Wilson, Executive Director, by email at, or by phone at 238-1809.

Mikaela Axman is an intern with Mid-State Literacy Council.